Porter delays restarting flights again; plans to resume service in November

Porter

One of the airlines serving the Ottawa International Airport is pushing its return to the skies back by another month.

Porter Airlines said Tuesday it’s now planning to resume flights on Nov. 12 instead of its previously announced target date of Oct. 7. It’s the fourth time the Toronto-based carrier has extended the suspension of its routes due to the ongoing uncertainty surrounding government travel restrictions in the wake of COVID-19.

In a statement, the airline said the federal government’s recent move to extend its mandatory quarantine order for travellers entering or returning to Canada until at least the end of September, as well as continued border closures and the ongoing Atlantic Canada travel bubble, were “key factors” in its decision to press pause on the restart.

“Every one of our markets is affected by the Canadian government's non-essential travel advisory and border closures,” Porter CEO Michael Deluce said in a statement. “We understand the impact this has on our passengers and our team members, and continue to make decisions based on how the situation evolves.”

Porter stopped flying on March 21 as travel restrictions due to the pandemic ramped up and caused a sharp drop in demand.

The airline’s connections between Ottawa and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport are popular among business travellers looking for quick access to downtown Toronto. Porter also connects Ottawa with several cities in Atlantic Canada, including Halifax, Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John. 

The news comes just a few weeks after another regional carrier, Newfoundland-based PAL Airlines, announced plans to start flying to Ottawa from St. John’s and Moncton once restrictions on travel to Atlantic Canada are lifted.

While more domestic flights are gradually being put back on the schedule, Ottawa airport authority CEO Mark Laroche told OBJ earlier this year the terminal expects only about 2.5 million passengers to pass through its gates in 2020, down from its original forecast of 5.2 million before COVID-19 hit.  

Laroche said it could be three to five years before passenger volumes at YOW return to pre-pandemic levels, adding the non-profit facility will likely have to hike levies such as airport improvement, terminal and landing fees – which account for more than two-thirds of its revenues – to help make up the difference.