Porter eyes new US routes from Toronto base

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Canada's Porter Airlines plans major expansion for 2009 as its fleet grows from eight to 18 Bombardier Q400s by year end.

The carrier has three US cities on its list, says founder and CEO Robert Deluce. Using Toronto's close-in City Centre airport, Porter's selling proposition is convenience.

The cities are Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington. Boston is likely to be the first new US city. "We're looking at all three Washington-area airports and we're going to have to select very carefully," he says of the choice among Reagan Washington National, a close-in airport, Washington Dulles, which is farther out but has more international flights, or Baltimore/Washington International (BWI).

"If we are not certain which Washington airport we'll choose or can't get the one we want, then maybe Philadelphia would move up the list," he says, hinting at National by adding, "Ideally, we would want to go from a downtown airport to downtown airport." At least one of these US transborder routes will begin in the spring and another should be added for the fall or autumn schedule

Deluce continues: "With added lift, we'll also increase our frequencies on some of the Canadian routes we're seeing lot of demand on Montréal and Ottawa, and we'll probably make Halifax (in Nova Scotia, in the eastern Maritimes) a year-round destination instead of a seasonal one," he says. The weekends-only Halifax flights stop in Ottawa. New Canadian cities will be chosen from a list of cities such as Thunder Bay, or Saulte Ste. Marie, possibly Windsor, all within Ontario's provincial borders.

Deluce declines to give financial or operational specifics for the privately-held Porter, but he notes that the carrier just distributed employee profit-sharing to its workers for its fiscal first quarter. He says that demand on some of the airline's established routes in the key triangle of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal has surpassed supply.