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Porter Airlines offers an all economy cabin, with complimentary WiFi, snacks and drinks for all passengers, and no middle seats! I was one of lucky few to have booked the inaugural Porter Airlines flight from Vancouver to Toronto, on the brand new Embraer E195-E2 aircraft. This was one of five new routes Porter had recently announced as part of their significant expansion in Canada.
With the introduction of the new E195-E2 aircraft, Porter has also unveiled an all-inclusive economy experience called PorterReserve. Before we get into my Porter airlines flight review, a quick recap;
PorterReserve features an elevated experience for passengers, with dedicated airport check-in, extra baggage allowance, early boarding, up-front seating (first four rows), extra legroom, full meal, and flexibility to change/cancel booking. All this in addition to the standard perks of PorterClassic.
PorterClassic offers the refined economy service, including complimentary beer/wine, snacks, free Wifi, and in-flight entertainment service. On flights longer than 2.5 hours, fresh meals are available to purchase for all passengers. In addition, PorterClassic passengers can customize their journey by picking fares (Basic, Standard, Flex, Freedom) that include advance seat selection, baggage, and flexibility.
Inaugural Porter Airlines flight review
Flight: PD 306, Vancouver (YVR) – Toronto (YYZ)
Duration: 4 hrs 32 min
Seat: 3D (PorterReserve)
Aircraft: Embraer E195-E2
Flight PD 306 was scheduled to depart YVR out of gate B27, at 2:00pm. In anticipation of the celebrations for the inaugural flight, I made my way to the gate a good 2 hours before scheduled boarding time. It was wonderful to see Porter listed on the board among other domestic carriers in Canada.
The setup at Gate B27 was festive, with the Toronto backdrop and YVR podium fitting for the festivities that lay ahead. My favorite though was the beautiful CN Tower cake topper with the Porter mascot on it, alongside a Embraer E195-E2 aircraft model in Porter livery. The beautiful cookies with Toronto skyline and Porter-YVR logos on were a great hit as well, both in taste and for the photo-op!
The Porter team at the gate were engaging with the sizeable crowd and happy to share anecdotes of the airlines’ expansion in Canada, while inviting everyone to get coffee/tea and snacks that were laid out on a Porter cart. The CEO of Porter Airlines, Robert Deluce was in attendance along with several senior executives from the Sales/Marketing and Operations teams.
The fanfare shifted from gate festivities to welcoming the incoming inaugural Porter flight from Toronto (PD 305) which pulled into the gate to a cacophony of camera clicks. The excitement hit a crescendo when the cockpit acknowledged the cameras with a wave! The incoming aircraft was also greeted with an Indigenous welcome ceremony which was very wholesome.
If that was not enough excitement for the large crowd (and media) gathered at the gate, Porter announced a slew of giveaways for the passengers ready to board PD 306 from Vancouver to Toronto;
- 4 passengers (picked at random by gate agents) received return-trip vouchers for any flight in the Porter network!
- $150 flight voucher for every passenger
- Free meal for all passengers on the flight
Shortly after completing the giveaway the pre-boarding announcements were made, starting with those that needed additional time to board. PorterReserve passengers were next and I was happy to get a head start for some cabin pictures 😊
Porter Airlines flight review – Cabin and Seats
I walked into the cabin to a ‘new aircraft smell’ which was a first for me. The all economy cabin had the 2-2 layout with;
- Rows 1-4 designated as PorterReserve – blue/grey seats with 36 inches of legroom
- Rows 5-7 (and exit rows 13-14) were the PorterClassic grey seats with 34 inches of legroom
- All other rows offered 30 inches of legroom
I was on seat 3D for this flight, and was amazed at how much legroom I had to myself. If not for the standard width of the seats, the PorterReserve seats can rival any domestic business class product for the knee room and leg-stretch.
Each seat on the aircraft was equipped with individual power outlets and air vent. The table-tray folded out to offer plenty of room to work on my laptop or to layout the full food spread offered in-flight.
There was a welcome note for all PorterReserve passengers, highlighting the elevated service, and the all-inclusive economy experience – a nice touch!
After take-off I connected to the complimentary WiFi (for all passengers) delivered by Viasat. I signed into my VIPorter account and activated my full-flight WiFi. The internet speeds were consistently strong and I enjoyed an uninterrupted service throughout the flight. Porter’s in-flight entertainment included streaming latest Hollywood and Canadian content, including movies, shows, kids programming, and documentaries.
Porter Airlines flight review – PorterCafe and Service
PorterCafe offers an impressive selection of meals to purchase, in addition to the complimentary snacks and drinks for all passengers. PorterReserve passengers get a dedicated menu service, which includes two starters and a choice of entree as part of the PorterReserve meal box.
PorterClassic passengers on the other hand have the option to purchase meals beyond the complimentary snacks and drinks. I must say, the menu was extremely well priced, $11.99 for meals and most snacks were priced at under $7 CAD.
The overall food experience onboard was satisfactory, with a LOT of scope for improvement in the service and delivery. Recall that Porter was serving meals to all passengers on this flight, and not just the snacks and drinks. This food celebration was excellent in theory but in practice it resulted in a severely slow service.
While the service started soon after the seat belt sign had come off, the cabin crew came by to distribute snacks, but no drinks. Meals came next, and the crew took their time to explain the food options, food box setup, etc. The first drink service was almost 2 hours into the flight when most PorterReserve passengers had completed their meals, and were waiting for the boxes to be cleared.
The meal box contained two starter options – Korean Cauliflower, and Cheese puffs. This box extended into a plate of sorts, which accommodated my selection of the entree – the croissant sandwich duo. The entire meal was served in eco-friendly boxes (incl. lids) and cutlery, including recyclable cotton napkin. Major hat-tip to Porter on choosing eco-friendly packaging over plastic.
The quality of food and presentation was top notch. However, I was left underwhelmed with no hot food options even for PorterReserve passengers. The ‘Korean’ was missing from the cauliflower bites as there was no sauce served (as mentioned in menu), and the cheese puffs were plain cold, as was the butter it came with. I expected the croissant to atleast be room temperature, but no luck as it was served cold as well.
New menu, and a full flight to serve, was always going to be a challenege for the crew who did their very best to keep up. But a 3 hour food service on a domestic 4.5 hour flight is just not done. The food service suffered under poor planning, imo. I hope this is something they would fix going past the inaugural flight, as I cannot imagine such good food being served in an underwhelming manner.
I did not get a chance to visit the toilet (a flight review faux pas?!) as there was a constant stream of passengers waiting to use the one of two toilets onboard. I opted for a quick snooze instead, thanks to the comfortable recline and the excessive room to stretch my legs. I got up just as the accouncement came on for our final approach into Toronto.
Food service aside, this flight was definitely a refined economy experience. Porter Airlines E195-E2 is truly an excellent way to travel in Canada, with the complimentary WiFi, snacks and drinks, and no middle seats. PorterReserve would be my preferred service for the priority services pre-boarding, seats with extra legroom, full meal, and all inclusive economy experience. If Porter can fix the food service quickly, and bring on a credit card partner (for status and points earning), they will become my favourite airline to travel in economy class.
Thank you for the great article. Its really helpful.
Flew the other direction and also chose a Reserve seat (2D). Same reaction to inflight service (and a bit pissed off I paid a hefty supplement to receive the same food as everyone on the $1 fare!). And no drinks until well after serving the meals! Porter needs to get its act together in this regard and have drinks follow the first snack pass out, then an FA immediately behind the meal FA as other airlines doing it, at least for those of us in the first four rows paying hundreds more!
Also did the YYZ-YUL/YOW flights on the 1st. Same inflight service issue on all four flights with drinks service: FAs got through just half the cabin before each flight began its descent! Mentioned this to Deluca who was sitting behind me. My wifi was very poor and even logging in with my Porter VIP number I had to relaunch several times and watch the same CHOP video I may go vegan! The tech for the wifi was sitting in front of me but couldn’t help much.
As someone who generally flies AC’s wide body pods between the two cities, there’s no comparison even with Reserve. And in fairness, I’ll use PE as a bench mark, and understand the shakedown on a new route/plane/scope of service. But still, PD has a major learning curve moving from short-haul Q400s to pure jets on transcons. I’m sure the pace of service will improve but the meals are truly pathetic! Maybe eco friending in all the packaging but tiny in size and a truly underwhelming selection that only a vegetarian or vegan could appreciate. I can only assume these planes have no ovens and thus tiny cold items are all we can expect. Finally, the YYZ flight departed @10:15a. The meal we were served at our noon was the breakfast meal. Would not lunch have been more appropriate?
Maybe for someone who only flies economy will appreciate PD over WestJet or AC, or the other discount carriers, but I think I’ll be restricting my Porter flights to the YTZ-YOW-YUL triangle from Billy Bishop…I won’t even discuss the disastrous situation I experienced at YYY T3 security that took almost a half-hour even with NEXUS!
Also sorry I missed the gate festivities. As I was making my way down the jet bridge with others in the front few rows, two members of First Nations rushed from behind us to position themselves to welcome us, but too late! Would have liked a couple of those Toronto cookies but didn’t notice them…and I wanted to meet my friends and get a real meal in the city!
Surely beats AC WJ and Flair
100% Porter’s economy offering is far superior to the current domestic competition.
Given I can order a hot meal flying AC in economy off the BoB and have a drink with my meal and not after (meaning I had to wait an additional half our to eat between meal delivery and a glass of wine…the way civilized people eat!) can’t say I agree fully.