* Porter seen announcing CSeries order Wednesday
* Operating jets from Porter's Toronto base poses problems
* Porter order could create third cross-Canada carrier
By Susan Taylor
TORONTO, April 9 Canadian regional carrier
Porter Airlines is expected to announce an order for 12 of
Bombardier Inc's new CSeries jets on Wednesday, a
likely challenge to restrictions at its Toronto Island airport
The privately held airline, which says it will announce
"expansion plans" at a morning press conference, could create a
third cross-country carrier with the deal, ratcheting up
competition for Canada's No. 1 and 2 airlines, Air Canada
and WestJet Airlines Ltd.
Porter is expected to announce a firm order for 12 of
Bombardier's CS100 jets, with options for another 18 of the
110-seat aircraft, according to The Wall Street Journal, which
cited unnamed sources.
Porter Airlines did not respond to requests for comment, and
Bombardier spokesman Marc Duchesne said the Montreal-based
company would not comment on "industry speculation."
Bombardier in December announced a firm order to an
"unidentified customer" for 12 CSeries worth $870 million at
list prices, with options for another 18 aircraft that would
swell the deal value to $2.08 billion.
Buying CSeries jets would provide Porter with opportunity
for longer flights and route expansion. But it also raises
questions about its ability to operate the CSeries from Billy
Bishop Toronto City Airport (BBTCA).
Under an airport agreement between the city of Toronto,
government of Canada and Toronto Harbour Commission, a rule bans
the operation of jet-powered aircraft, which would include the
There is speculation that Porter may lobby to have the
airport rules changed, arguing that the "noise footprint" from
the CSeries is not dissimilar to that of the 70-seat Q400
turboprop planes it currently flies.
Bombardier and engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney promise a
"low noise footprint and just 70 decibels approaching the
airport," wrote Scott Hamilton, an aviation analyst with Leeham
Co, noting that the airport is "highly noise sensitive."
Seven-year-old Porter currently flies a fleet of 26 Q400
propeller planes to more than a dozen cities in eastern Canada
and the United States, with routes restricted by the plane's
range of approximately 1,000 miles.
The CS100 has a range of some 3,066 miles, but that distance
can be sharply reduced by runway length.
"We suspect that any move to open up the BBTCA to jets will
be met with fierce opposition so there is no guarantee that the
airline will be allowed to operate the CS100 from its main hub,"
said National Bank Financial analyst Cameron Doerksen in a note.
If Porter plans to fly the CSeries from another airport that
does not connect to its Toronto Island base, its advantages over
Air Canada and WestJet would be "limited at best," Doerksen
"Indeed, the history of airlines in Canada attempting to
grow from regional players into national players is not
positive," he wrote.
Porter Chief Executive Robert Deluce has hinted in the past
that his airline could expand into Western Canada, a strategy
that would invite a tough competitive response from Air Canada
and WestJet, Doerksen wrote.
The island airport's runways could pose a further problem.
While the longest runway is approximately 4,000 feet, matching
the CSeries requirement for takeoff, the jet requires 4,400 feet
for landing, Bombardier said.
That means the airport would require a "significant rework"
for the planes to operate, RBC Capital Markets analyst Walter
Spracklin said in a note.
"Porter could also be looking to deploy the CSeries from
alternate airports, including Montreal, to destinations in the
U.S. and significantly expand its footprint on those routes," he