Porter Airlines

Porter Airlines is a small airline that flies out of Toronto Island airport, also known as Toronto City Centre Airport, or Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. It's located near downtown Toronto Ontario. Its code is YTZ.

The airline serves several cities including Ottawa, New York, Chicago, Montreal, Quebec City, Mont-Tremblant, Halifax and Thunder Bay. If you’re visiting Ontario, you might want to consider this little upstart whose tagline is “Flying Refined”.

I have flown with Porter Airline from Toronto to NYC, from Toronto to Washington and Toronto to Newfoundland. A friend of mine has flown them several times from Toronto to Ottawa and he says they’re great on that route as well.

In my opinion, there are pros and cons to using this airline and I'll outline them here.

The people behind the website Airline Quality - www.airlinequality.com - gives the company 4-stars– the highest rating an airline can get on their site. However, the customer ratings shown on that site give it an average of 6/10. 

Pros of using Porter

The first difference between Porter Airlines and other airlines serving these routes is the airport location. With Porter you fly out of Toronto Island Airport, not Toronto Pearson Airport. That means if you’re based downtown (and as a tourist, you likely will be), you don’t have to travel all the way out to the suburbs to get to your flight.

If you’re coming from out of town and taking the bus or train to Toronto, this really saves travel time – probably about two hours when you factor in the travel time and the lineups and the need to be there so early at the larger airport. With Porter, all you have to do is walk over (about 3 blocks) to the Royal York Hotel (where the other airport buses line up) and hop the free Porter shuttle to the harbour. That takes about 10 minutes. Walk under the tunnel and then –boom! – you’re in the airport.

Check-in and security are both fast and easy. Their recommended check-in time is only an hour for flights to the USA, as opposed to Pearson where they recommend 90 minutes. There are none of those horrendous line-ups you find at a big airport. It took me two minutes to check in. Since there’s only one airline it’s also a lot simpler – no running around trying to find the right desk.

The real surprise comes, though, in the Porter Airlines waiting lounge. It’s like an elegant living room you’d see on the cover of a decorating magazine! There are big leather easy chairs, subdued lighting from trendy lamps, computer terminals for public use, free newspapers, and a small coffee/tea/snack bar (no meals, just snacks).

Another nice touch is porcelain cups and silverware instead of styrofoam and plastic -- it gives you that cozy feeling of sitting in your own living room and not a waiting lounge.

On board, the planes are smaller than most of the planes you’ll take on longer flights, with about 70 seats. They are clean, the seats are comfortable, and have decent leg-room.

The online food includes (for lunch) a small sandwich, cheese and crackers in a cute little box featuring their funny mascot, a cartoon raccoon. Food, snacks and drinks (coffee, tea, wine, beer) are all included in your ticket.

The location of the airport means that you get some spectacular scenery at take-off and landing: a great view of Toronto’s waterfront. I rarely see the skyline from this angle. It’s an extra perk.

Cons of Porter

While the small size of an airport can be an advantage, it can also be a disadvantage, especially if you're stuck there for a long time. Larger airports have stores and restaurants to keep you fed and entertained. At Porter, there is really only one big room and nothing to do...So if you're fogged in, good luck. You won't be able to buy a meal, so be prepared and bring a meal replacement bar.

Again, since it's small, and one or more flights get backed up, the single room can get very crowded.

Also, using this airport can also be a hassle if you're making a connection to another airline and it's out at Pearson. You have to make the trip to downtown first and then get the bus or taxi out to Pearson...a much more complicated process than just moving from one terminal to another.

Some of the recent reviews I've read on line repeatedly mention cancelled flights, so this is an issue too to take into consideration.