Porter Airlines says it is officially returning to the skies on Sept. 8 – nearly 18 months after it suspended its flights due to the pandemic.
The Toronto-based carrier announced Monday it will restart its operations in phases, with Ottawa among four Canadian cities – along with Toronto, Montreal and Thunder Bay – where Porter will initially resume flights on Sept. 8.
Daily flights between Ottawa and Toronto will restart that day. Porter plans to add more routes throughout the month, with daily YOW-Halifax flights to resume on Sept. 13, followed by service between Ottawa and Moncton on Sept. 17.
Flights to U.S. cities including Boston, Chicago, New York and Washington will resume Sept. 17.
“While deciding to suspend our service was the most difficult business decision we've made, announcing a restart of flights is the first step in a recovery process that includes recalling hundreds of team members and welcoming back passengers,” CEO Michael Deluce said in a statement.
Porter says approximately 500 employees will be recalled to active status as the first phase of flights are introduced. It says more staff will be added as more flights and destinations return to the schedule.
The airline suspended operations on March 21, 2020 due to the pandemic. Since then, the airline has delayed the resumption of its flights several times. It had most recently hoped to restart operations on July 20.
In March, Porter announced it was permanently laying off about 20 per cent of its Ottawa-based baggage handlers. The carrier said a third-party contractor would handle its baggage services at YOW when flights resumed, adding it hoped the new provider would hire some of the laid-off workers.
The company reached a deal last week with the federal government for loans valued up to $270.5 million, including $20.5 million to refund passengers for cancelled flights.
Porter’s announcement should give a boost to the Ottawa Airport, which is facing the biggest cash crunch in its history as passenger volumes have plummeted during the pandemic.
While the number of flights serving YOW has picked up in recent weeks, air traffic is still down more than 70 per cent compared with pre-COVID levels.
As a result, the airport – which relies on improvement fees charged to passengers as well as terminal and landing fees, concession revenues and parking fees for most of its revenues – racked up a net loss of $51.2 million in 2020 and expects to incur an even bigger deficit this year.
– With files from the Canadian Press