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Small airline huge on service

Posted by Paul Kandarian  August 12, 2011 07:26 AM

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The only thing you usually get on short flights these days is a dirty look from flight attendants when you ask for anything resembling service. But on a recent Porter Airlines flight from Toronto to Boston – all of one hour, 35 minutes – I got the choice of free wine or beer (including Canada’s own Steam Whistle, which is a terrific brew, I must say), plus the usual beverages, like juice in an actual glass with frosted “Porter” etched on it, along with a boxed lunch of a hard roll stuffed with turkey and roasted pepper, a cup of pesto-laced elbow macaroni, and a tiny Lindt chocolate.
And this was coach, not first class. Porter has no first class. Just class, period, in the way it treats us all the same. Which is to say, very nicely. Flight prices always vary, but most recently were around $170, one way, taxes included, from Boston to Toronto, with two-week advance booking.
Flying Boston-Toronto is about as convenient as it gets. Porter flies into Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport smack dab on the city’s Lake Ontario shoreline where a three-minute free ferry gets you to the mainland and a quick cab drive to your hotel. Flying into the much larger Pearson International Airport 14 miles outside the city requires a much longer and more expensive trip into it.
The passenger lounge at the airport is light years ahead of any public passenger space I have ever seen, a wide open area with desks, comfortable seats and chairs, free Wi-Fi, with free snacks and as many beverages as you want (soda, water, juice) and coffee in real cups. When they announce your flight, you go, leaving your junk behind where Porter personnel constantly pick up passenger detritus. There are only two Porter lounges, Toronto and Ottawa, but Porter officials are looking at putting more in larger markets, including Montreal and Newark, and which some day could include Boston’s Logan International.
Porter flies Bombardier Q400 planes to Toronto, amazingly quiet for prop planes, and with decent leg room in its configuration of two seats per side (70 in all). The flight attendant attire is a throwback, with pillbox hats, and the in-flight mag, smaller than most and printed on quality, heavy stock, looks and reads more like an art journal.
Porter is a great option for Boston-Toronto flights. And you won’t go hungry besides.

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