Porter pushes back restart until February as pandemic continues to batter airline industry

Porter plane

After a series of delays in its return to the skies, Porter Airlines now says it won’t resume flights until at least February as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc with the travel industry.

In a statement on Monday, the Toronto-based carrier says it’s planning to resume flights on Feb. 11, 2021 rather than Dec. 15 as it announced last month. Porter stopped flying on March 21 as travel restrictions due to the pandemic ramped up and has pushed back its restart date several times.

Porter president and CEO Michael Deluce blamed the latest deferral on a recent surge in COVID-19 cases and ongoing travel restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, which has infected record numbers of Ontarians in recent days.

“Deferring service until 2021 is not a decision we anticipated having to make as COVID-19 emerged early this year,” Deluce said. 

“Unfortunately, the continued and cumulative effects of restrictive travel advisories, border closures and quarantines have suffocated travel demand to the point that a return to sustainable levels of passenger traffic is highly unlikely in 2020.”

The company says the latest delay “also gives more time for the development of rapid testing solutions as a promising means to lift government-imposed restrictions on travel.”

Air Canada posts $685M loss

Porter’s move comes the same day Air Canada announced it lost $685 million in the third quarter, compared with a net income of $636 million a year earlier, as passenger volume plummeted 88 per cent. 

The airline flew 1.7 million passengers in the three-month period ending Sept. 30, down from 14.6 million in the same quarter in 2019.

“Today’s results reflect COVID-19′s unprecedented impact on our industry globally and on Air Canada in what has historically been our most productive and profitable quarter,” Air Canada president and CEO Calin Rovinescu said in a statement.

Air Canada, which has already suspected 30 domestic routes during the pandemic, said Monday it’s preparing to cancel another 95 domestic, U.S. and international routes. That follows WestJet’s decision last month to ground flights between Ottawa and Halifax as part of a wider move to reduce its service to Atlantic Canada as the pandemic continues to take a toll on the airline industry.

Ottawa airport authority CEO Mark Laroche told OBJ earlier this year the terminal expects only about 2.5 million passengers to pass through its gates in 2020, down from its original forecast of 5.2 million before COVID-19 hit.  

Laroche said it could be three to five years before passenger volumes at YOW return to pre-pandemic levels, adding the non-profit facility will likely have to hike levies such as airport improvement, terminal and landing fees – which account for more than two-thirds of its revenues – to help make up the difference.