Porter Airlines to hire hundreds of workers in Ottawa as part of $65M plan to set up maintenance hub at YOW

Porter Airlines president and CEO Michael Deluce at Tuesday's announcement at the Ottawa International Airport (YOW).

As it continues on the road to recovery from the pandemic, the Ottawa International Airport is teaming up with Porter Airlines’ parent company on a $65-million plan to build two new aircraft maintenance hangars that will eventually employ hundreds of workers in the capital.

Porter Aviation Holdings said Tuesday the two new hangars will total about 150,000 square feet and be used to maintain the airline’s fleet of new Embraer E195-E2 and existing De Havilland Dash 8-400 aircraft.

The hangars are being built in two phases, with the first scheduled for completion by the end of 2023 and the second in the first quarter of 2024.

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The airport authority is building a new $15-million taxiway to meet federal government needs, and the infrastructure will help to support private sector development like Porter’s.

”YOW was Porter’s first destination when they launched in 2006,” Ottawa airport authority president and CEO Mark Laroche said in a statement, referring to the facility by its call letters. “We believe it’s very fitting that YOW is an important part of their expansion plans and their future and look forward to the benefits that come with such an extensive maintenance operation.”

Porter said the Ottawa terminal will be the maintenance hub for the carrier’s Embraer E195-E2 aircraft. The airline said it plans to hire up to 200 local employees, including 160 aircraft maintenance engineers as well as shop technicians, store clerks and administrative support workers.

“Ottawa has been a critical location for Porter throughout our history and the multimillion-dollar facilities we’re building to maintain aircraft here is only the latest example of our desire to meaningfully invest in Canada’s capital region,” Michael Deluce, the airline’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

“We anticipate our presence in Ottawa will grow in the coming years, supported by the maintenance base and future aircraft deliveries that give us the ability to consider new routes.”

Porter has up to 100 Embraer E195-E2s on order, while the carrier’s current Dash 8-400 fleet includes 29 aircraft. The airline says the new fleet opens doors for it to expand its operations throughout North America, including the West Coast, the southern U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean.

The aircraft will be delivered by the end of this year and will initially fly out of Toronto Pearson International Airport, with Ottawa, Halifax and Montreal seeing new service over time.

Porter said the new hangars are being designed and constructed with sustainability in mind. For example, most vehicles used for towing and servicing aircraft will be electric-powered.

“We are particularly pleased that sustainability factors so prominently in Porter’s plans, which fits perfectly with YOW’s ambitious commitment to net-zero operations … by 2040 or sooner,” said Laroche.

Porter’s investment comes at a critical time for the Ottawa International Airport, which is trying to regain altitude after its passenger volumes plummeted as air travel virtually ground to a halt during the pandemic.

Laroche told OBJ in late August about 10,000 passengers used the terminal on peak days that month, up substantially from a year ago and within about 70 per cent of 2019 levels.

Laroche said the resurgence of summer vacation traffic in 2022 has brightened the financial outlook for the airport, which racked up total losses of almost $90 million over the past two fiscal years as passenger traffic nosedived.

But he warned that the airport, which drew more than five million passengers in 2019, won’t fully recover until more business executives stop logging on Zoom and start jumping on planes to meet customers face-to-face.

“We’re seeing some business travel, but obviously not to the same level as before,” Laroche told OBJ. “I’m not saying that people shouldn’t use technology, but we’re looking forward to business travel getting back.”

The airport authority is projecting that the not-for-profit facility won’t hit the break-even point until at least the second quarter of 2023.

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