In the ongoing dogfight between upstart Porter Airlines and Canada’s flying duopoly of Air Canada and WestJet, the latest battle has been won by Porter, but the war is far from over.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has given the all-clear for Porter to begin flights from the Toronto City Centre Airport to American destinations. Air Canada fought hard to block Porter’s application, as did several U.S. carriers, a Toronto city councillor, and environmentalists. Air Canada argued Porter holds an unfair monopoly over the island airport near downtown Toronto, after the tiny airline’s founder and chief executive officer, Robert Deluce, bought up all the hangars and evicted his larger competitor.
But since the airport hasn’t blocked any American carriers from landing there, U.S. officials didn’t seem to care about domestic squabbles north of the border. Porter’s first U.S. destination will be Newark International Airport, with flights expected to start by early next year. Other U.S. cities, such as Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia, are to follow.
In getting his airline off the ground, Deluce has had to contend with price wars and court challenges. Gaining access to U.S. markets will add to his short list of Canadian destinations. “This is a major step for us,” says Deluce. “We’re anticipating strong demand on a route that is presently monopolized.”
Porter hasn’t cleared the turbulence. Earlier this month Air Canada Jazz won a court decision allowing it to challenge its exclusion from the island airport. A judge gave Jazz one month to file a lawsuit against Porter and the Toronto Port Authority, which manages the airport. Porter has already wracked up more than $1 million in legal costs so far.
In the meantime, analysts expect Air Canada to respond to the new competition on its U.S. routes by slashing fares. In this dogfight, price is still the biggest weapon. M
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