Friday, March 28, 2008

Porter it up!

It was last month, when I was told that I had to submit an expense estimate before my first business trip to Toronto, that I was told about Porter Airlines. There I was, figuring in the $150 of cab fares from Pearson International Airport, that my officemate asked if I was going to be staying downtown. Since this was the case, she said "Porter it up!"

Porter flies to the City Centre Airport, on an island right by downtown Toronto. I was told of the many wonderful aspects of a flight on Porter, but it wasn't until experiencing them that I realize how much the little things help - especially when there are a ton of little things piled on top of each other:

Transportation: As mentioned, the plane lands in Toronto on an island. When I first got there I was thinking "Okay, great. There's apparently a free ferry that runs to the mainland, but from there I guess I'll have to cab it." Not so! After the ferry ride, a shuttle will take you to the corner of Wellington and York, right downtown. They'll also be there to pick you up and bring you back to the ferry when you're heading home. All of this for free!

Airplane Food: I've only been on a half dozen flights in my life, but the food up until Porter consisted of my choice of salty snacks plus a mini-can of pop. If you're flying on a Porter flight any time near mealtime, you're suddenly presented with a small half-shoebox neatly sealed with an actual meal inside. Not a full-course meal, for certain, but for breakfast I had a muffin, a yogurt, and a cereal bar. For lunch or dinner, there was a half-sandwich, some melba toast or crackers, a BabyBel wheel of Gouda, and a cookie or chocolate for dessert. Add to that your choice of pop, bottled water (I was bringing home the cool shaped water bottle to show off but left it at the ATM), or, you know, beer. Or wine, red or white. Complimentary. In a glass. And I'm not talking "Here's your glass of cola, sir, we'll be saving the rest of your can for the next person.", I'm saying a full 355mls all to yourself!

Music: They've got awesome covers of 1960's bossanova and - music piped into the planes before takeoff, not that you get to hear it for long since there's never any delays waiting on the tarmac (on the Toronto side, anyhow, since they're the only airline using the airstrip) but in any case the music matches nicely with the style of...

The Flight Attendants: You know when you see a flight attendant in a movie, all pretty and neat, in their little uniforms with their pillbox hats, then you get on a real plane and you've got the over-made-up middle aged ladies in their puffy blouses and lopsided kerchiefs, who look kinda dejected when they don't think anyone is looking? They're that way because they're not up to par with the hotness of the Porter attendants. (Since this blog was initially started in the lounge at the airport, then was interrupted when my flight arrived, it should be noted that my flight home tonight was staffed by two ladies who decided they didn't want the sexy new Porter outfits, and instead slumped sadly in lame outfits as described formerly. Of course, they were probably on this particular flight to average out the age of the flight crew, as our pilot looked about sixteen.)

Their Mascot: The raccoon, it is everywhere - and I just like it from a branding point of view. I smuggled out the outer packaging of my boxed dinner because I love it. The raccoon's head, Kilroy Was Here style, with a noodle-laden knife and fork. Below its snout is the word "orte". The first time I saw it I tilted the packaging, wondering whether the p and r that were supposed to frame it was printed in a way I could only see at a certain angle, but no... then it hit me. The noodles were not noodles - the p hangs off the knife on the left, and the r is speared by the fork - pure genius in design.

Mr Porter's Lounge: Man. The picture on this page doesn't do it justice. The lounge at the City Centre airport has free wireless Internet, computers for those who don't have laptops with them, comfy chairs, coffee maker, espresso maker, and a fully stocked drink fridge (no beer in that one, unfortunately).

Now, Porter is a small airline, so of course if there's plane troubles it's not as quickly resolved. If I left the above review as is you know Lara will bring up how Porter "screwed me over" last month. But I don't see it as being screwed over -- Basically I had a 7pm flight, but got off training early. I called them and asked about moving my flight up, and they bumped me up to the 5:30 flight, a more expensive flight, but at no extra charge! Unfortunately, it was snowy and slushy in Toronto, and that shuts the whole city down in a gridlocked panic. So the 10 minute shuttle was half an hour late. Calling ahead once again to tell them I wouldn't be able to make it to the 5:30 flight, they pushed me back onto the 6:15 flight. When I got there, it turned out that the plane that was leaving at 6:15 had been delayed -- in fact, they wouldn't let it leave Montreal -- so everyone on the 6:15 flight had to be bumped to the 7:00 flight.

You know, the one that I was originally booked on.

And the one that I was now 13th in line on standby to get onto.

So I hung out in the lounge, and they brought me dinner, and I used their wireless, but ended up rebooking to Saturday morning and receiving a $50 voucher for a future flight... they were all very nice about it, so I don't hold it against them as much as Lara does...

So if you're looking for an airline that will make you feel civilized, fly Porter. They don't fly everywhere - Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal (through Toronto, so really, it's faster to drive from Ottawa to Montreal), Halifax, Quebec City, and New York. But do as I did today - don't reschedule your flight home. Just go and shop, or spend the day in the lounge, even if they give you funny looks for checking in at 10am for a 7pm flight.

1 comment:

Lara said...

You're right - I'm still bitter, and you were bitter then too ;)

I guess I'll just have to fly porter to see how fabulous it can be. :)