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Friday, June 14, 2013

Toronto: Flying with Porter Airlines

This is the third (and last) in my three part Toronto series. You can read about the Distillery Segway/food tour here, and a Toronto photo essay here.

I went to Toronto for the TBEX travel blogger conference, and flew Porter Airlines for the first time. While most flights go into the Pearson International airport, my Porter flight arrived at the downtown Billy Bishop Airport, which is  two minute ferry ride from downtown Toronto. You can actually see the CN Tower (which looks like Seattle's Space Needle) and downtown from the airline exit ramp. And if your staying downtown, even better. They run a free shuttle every 20 minutes dropping you off very close to the MTCC, Toronto's convention center. My hotel was 1.5 blocks from there, making it a cheap way to get to/from the airport.
View of downtown from the Porter plane. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
View of downtown from the Porter plane. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
On board, the flight attendants are dressed in really cute designer outfits with retro pill box hats. I couldn't find a royalty-free photo to use, but you can see the Porter uniforms here.
Even on short flights, they serve complementary mini meals, including free wine and beer in actual glass.
porter food
Complementary Porter meals with actual wine and beer  served in actual glasses. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
If flying out of Billy Bishop Airport, get there early to enjoy the nicest waiting areas I've seen (outside of airport clubs you have to pay for). While they do offer food for purchase (salads, sandwiches), the snack area includes complementary shortbread cookies, roasted almonds, soda/juice/water, Starbuck's coffee, tea, and cappuccino/latte machines.
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Help yourself to free snacks and drinks at Porter's waiting area. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Help yourself to free snacks and drinks at Porter's waiting area. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Going nuts while waiting for my flight. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Going nuts while waiting for my flight. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan

No computer? No problem. It's open to all. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
No computer? No problem. It's open to all. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
The seating area is comfortable and sectioned off for more privacy. There are different types of seating areas too. Some that are more open, some near the food/drinks.
Comfortable seating at the Billy Bishop Airport. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Comfortable seating at the Billy Bishop Airport. Copyright Deborah Abrams Kaplan
So it's all perfect, right? Well, Porter mechanics are striking right now, which led to a lot of grumbling by fellow passengers who blamed the strike for cancelled flights the day I traveled as well as in previous weeks. I can't verify if that's true. The night I was traveling, it was very chaotic, with numerous cancelled flights which the airline said was because of storms in Toronto and around the U.S. East Coast. There were a lot of storms that day/night so I can believe the storms were the culprit that day. The airport has a curfew (it's on an island with residents), so I'd advise not scheduling the last flight out of the night in case of delays.

In any case, it was a pleasure to fly Porter, especially to hang out in the Porter waiting area where not only weren't we nickle-and-dimed, we were given lots of freebies. And you can check one bag for free (though you have to pay to reserve seats). I had to gate check my bag because the planes are pretty small and normal wheelie bags won't fit in the overhead. They bring the bags back to you at the gate.

Have you flown Porter? What's your favorite airline?

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