Porter Airlines has a deal with Qatar Airways that will allow customers travelling from the Middle Eastern country to connect seamlessly to Canadian destinations — the first of many such partnerships the airline hopes to announce this year.
It's the regional carrier's first interline pact — a type of partnership airlines use to bring more traffic into their networks and boost revenues.
"Establishing Porter's first interline agreement is an important occasion for us and we couldn't have chosen a better partner than Qatar Airways, one of the world's elite airlines," said Porter CEO Robert Deluce.
"It's the beginning of a plan to add multiple interline partners in 2012, introducing Porter to an entirely new set of passengers."
The partnership, now in effect, enables passengers flying from Doha, Qatar, to Montreal to connect on one ticket to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport or to Halifax. It also applies to flights from Washington to Toronto.
Tickets for Porter-Qatar itineraries are currently only available for purchase from Qatar Airways.
Interline deals often pave the way for code-share partnerships, which involve a higher level of integration between two airlines. In code-shares, flights operated by two or more different airlines will all carry the same two-digit code.
Air Canada has partnerships with 26 other airlines through its membership in Star Alliance.
Its main rival, Calgary-based WestJet Airlines, has opted not to join such an international alliance, instead announcing a bevy of its own interline and code-share partnerships in recent years.
For an airline like Qatar Airways, Porter was likely the only way to get into the Canadian market, since both of the bigger Canadian carriers are already tied up with existing partnerships, said aviation consultant Rick Erickson.
That leaves smaller niche players like Porter — and there aren't many of them — to partner up with other small carriers, or ones that are "late to the game" like Qatar, he said.
"And so I'm not expecting anywhere near the frequency (of partnership announcements) coming out of Porter that we've been getting out of WestJet," said Erickson.
While it's a "good announcement" for both airlines, Erickson said he'd be surprised to see more than a handful of passengers added to Porter flights as a result of the Qatar deal.
"Is it going to amount to more traffic? Quite frankly, I don't think so."