It wasn’t your typical industry event Wednesday night in Vancouver, but then again Porter Airlines doesn’t do anything typical.
The airline held an event inviting agents, corporate travel executives and local influencers to “Mr. Porter’s House,” an immersive experience designed to give attendees the full Porter experience without stepping on the plane. Guests could sample the full menu, created by Chef Robert, and imbibe with any of the airline’s wine and booze partners and were later treated to a “house party” complete with famed DJ Marsh.
The Eastern Canada market has done well since their launch in YTZ back in 2007. They are a solid, recognized brand in that region alongside their vacation arm Porter Escapes and market research suggests there’s no reason that won’t continue in Vancouver.
“It is the first market that we did in Western Canada and we are already up to five flights a day,” says Kevin Jackson, EVP and COO, Porter Airlines. “It has performed very well for us, that’s because our product is perfect for a long flight; it’s comfortable and people enjoy the product and experience on board.”
Historically, Porter has the highest level of customer satisfaction with carriers anywhere in North America, measuring their scores daily. Jackson says there’s also an emotional connection to the brand and that combination led to the need to reposition the airline to be Canada wide. After months of market research, specifically targeting economy travellers, it became clear to the company that economy was a segment they needed to go after.
“We’re not just a regional carrier at downtown Toronto City Airport anymore. We needed to go after that economy segment in a way that only Porter can do. Frankly, Porter is the only airline with the brand credibility to do it.”
Porter promises travellers will #actuallyenjoyeconomy, and how could they not?
The airline recently announced changes to its onboard experiences, with Porter Reserve and Porter Classic. The previous Signature has been rebranded as Classic and still includes no middle seat, free beer, wine and snacks with onboard meals available for purchase on longer flights. Classic seats have a 30 inch seat pitch, larger than economy in most other airlines.
Porter Reserve can best be described as the “all-inclusive” of flights, with a dedicated check-in, more legroom, meals, any flight changes and checked bag included alongside Classic’s no middle seat, free beer and wine plus snacks. Seats have 36 inches of seat pitch on the jets, similar to business class on other narrow-body airlines.
All seats also include free, and fast wifi (tested by yours truly) and have seat charging stations.
“To make a promise that says we’re going to give you an elevated economy experience, we have to deliver,” says Jackson. “There’s a lot of competition in Canada today and we know what that competitive landscape looks like. No one is doing the economy like us, whether that’s the new entrants to the market or the legacy carriers. No one is doing it.”
Jackson says travel agents are critical to the company and they have grown their sales team with the launch to help inform them of new product.
“Western Canada agents may know a bit about us, but they don’t really know us and we need to help them understand the Porter value proposition.
Even then, in Eastern Canada there are agents who understand us but probably know the old proposition better – Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport – which is still very critical to us. But alot of agents are not fully aware of our experience onboard our jets. I think for us it’s important to get the travel agency community to understand Porter Reserve because it’s a new concept in the market, not just for Porter.”
Porter Escapes, previously very popular for getaways in primarily urban settings, will also be invested in heavily as the focus moves more towards leisure market, where packaging is important. The industry will start to see a stronger focus on those markets in late 2024 and 2025.
[–image id=’Mr. Porter’s House Party’–]
At the event, Julia Huang, a travel agent with PanAsia Holidays based in Surrey, BC told TravelPulse Canada she just booked her first client on Porter last week but hasn’t ever experienced it herself. The event gave her a chance to do that, and she is looking forward to working with the sales team.
There will be lots of opportunities for agents to do just that over the coming months, in core markets – whether that’s introducing the brand or reintroducing as a different carrier than before.
“It’s important for us to engage the travel agent community to understand our offerings, especially for Reserve because it’s a new concept in the market not just for Porter,” said Jackson. It’s positioned in the market to be like a business class experience, but within an economy setting and at a far greater value than business costs.
There is no product on the market like Porter Reserve.”
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