Porter eyeing two-class configuration on CS100s

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Porter Airlines is considering a two-class cabin for its Bombardier CS100 aircraft to enhance comfort on longer journeys, said Robert Deluce, Porter's president and chief executive on the sidelines of a 10 April event in Toronto to announce an order for up to 30 of the aircraft type.

"The configuration that we presently have selected is 107 seats, two classes of cabin, but all of it with increased seating space, bigger windows and more overhead baggage storage space," said Deluce.

Bombardier's standard configuration for the CS100 includes 110 seats, with a maximum capacity of 125 seats.

Some aspects of the configuration could change between now and when the aircraft is manufactured, such as the number of seats. But Deluce says the two-class design is ideal for the longer routes the CSeries will fly out of its hub at Billy Bishop Toronto City airport.

"It's one thing to be flying an hour in a Q400 ­- and we do that very comfortably in a one-class configuration," said Deluce. "I think when you go a little further out - in other words four, four-and-a-half hours, or whatever it takes to get to a Vancouver, an LA, or a Miami - you need to sort-of consider the potential inclusion of a second category of seats, and that's why we have looked at the two-class configuration at 107 seats," said Deluce.

Deluce declined to comment on whether the added class would be a separate product offering, such as premium economy, or if it would be simply a section with extra leg room. It is also unclear if Porter's CSeries will be line-fit with any inflight entertainment or connectivity options.

Porter's fleet of 26 Bombardier Q400s have 70 seats with a 34in pitch. The seats are laid out in a two-by-two, single-class configuration.

Porter is planning to use the CSeries as the basis for an expansion plan that involves flying to routes as far as Los Angeles, Vancouver and the Caribbean. The first aircraft is scheduled to arrive in 2016.

Porter has thus far stayed close to its East Coast focus cities of Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax, but will initiate fresh competition with Air Canada and WestJet on the further routes. Those two carriers have both indicated that they will introduce premium economy or extra legroom options on their respective fleets.

WestJet is introducing premium economy seating on its Boeing 737 fleet this year, and should finish reconfiguring its fleet with the class this year.

The modifications will include installation of four rows of extra leg room on the Boeing 737s with a 36in pitch and putting an additional eight seats on the Boeing 737-800s. The pitch was decreased in the standard economy section to 31 or 32in from 34in.

Air Canada has indicated it will offer premium economy on its Boeing 767-300ER aircraft that its Rouge leisure carrier will start flying in July, and include it in a three-class cabin on its new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and 787s. It will fly its Airbus A319s in the Rouge fleet with an extra legroom section, which will head to leisure destinations in the Caribbean.

Adding a second class has been popular for North American customers, says Philippe Poutissou, vice-president marketing, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.

"We've certainly seen it in North America," he says.