The head of Toronto-based Porter Airlines has laid out his flight plan for this fall on both sides of the border, but doesn't expect travel demand to return back to pre-pandemic levels until mid-2022.
“Over the past month we’ve been getting a lot more reception from customers,” said Michael Deluce, president and chief executive officer at Porter Airlines, in a broadcast interview.

“We expect a fairly rapid recovery starting in September. Will it go back to 100 per cent overnight? Absolutely not. But, we anticipate a strong recovery through fall. Hopefully by mid-2022 we’ll see traffic levels that return to pre-pandemic levels.”

The carrier announced Monday that it is planning to restart service in early September after a hiatus of more than 16 months. Porter’s entire network is expected to be up and running by Oct. 6, said Deluce.

Last month, Porter and the federal government reached an agreement for loans of up to $270 million, with $20.5 million earmarked for passenger refunds for COVID-cancelled flights.

“The federal government has stepped up to ensure substantial liquidity as carriers ramp up operations post-pandemic,” said Deluce. 

He also noted the federal funds will be used by Porter on an as-needed basis.

“We went into the pandemic with a very strong balance sheet and raised capital very quickly in March 2020, and maintained a very modest burn rate over the past 16 months.” 

While awaiting the green light to return to the skies, Porter has been busy upgrading its fleet of 29 turboprop planes, all of which boast new seats, carpets and fresh coats of paint, said Deluce.

As demand for air travel remains a moving target, the carrier will have to bring staff back in order to resume service, Deluce added.

Prior to the pandemic, Porter had more than 1,400 team members. Today, that number is down to just 200 staff, but the company plans to bring back up to 500 workers between now and September, with more possible later in the fall, said Deluce. 

Deluce said he expects airfares to be "volatile" in the early stages of the recovery as carriers struggle to balance capacity with demand, but figures that will resolve itself over time.