Nfld. & Labrador

Porter pulls out of expanding St. John's airport for winter

If you had a flight booked with Porter Airlines this winter, you're out of luck — the company will no longer service St. John's from Jan. 4 to April 11.

Airline no longer flying to YYT from January to April, cites 'local economic downturn'

St. John's Board of Trade CEO Nancy Healey says Porter may be focusing on the summer season because there's a lull in our market during the winter. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

If you had a flight booked with Porter Airlines this winter, you're out of luck — the company will no longer service St. John's from Jan. 4 to April 11.

Citing the economic downturn, Porter confirmed the service disruption in an email on Monday afternoon, hours after the St. John's Airport Authority announced the completion of another phase of its $250-million, 10-year expansion.

"We are moving to a seasonal schedule in St. John's, operating for nine months during the busier seasons from April through December," said Brad Cicero, Porter's director of communications and public affairs, in an email.

"The winter season is the weakest demand period, so the local economic downturn hasn't helped that situation."

If you try to book a flight between January and April 2017, Porter Airlines now lists the service as not on offer. (CBC)

Cicero said there were relatively few bookings for those winter months but everyone received a refund after the flight schedule was updated a month ago.

Not a sign of the times

"We're talking to other airlines about replacing this flight," said Marie Manning, director of marketing and business development at St. John's International Airport Authority. 

"This is a unique situation to Porter."

Airport marketing manager Marie Manning says airline seat capacity is up 8% this year in St. John's. (CBC)

"They advised us that the reason they were not offering the one daily flight this year was due to winter costs and servicing of the aircraft," said Manning. 

She said traveller numbers were up 5 per cent between January to August this year, and up 10 per cent over their "busiest summer ever."

She said airport expansion plans are on track to meet demand. 

St. John's Board of Trade CEO Nancy Healey said Porter's winter service cancellation is disappointing, but those months are one of the slower points of the year.

"Despite some of the economic headwinds that we have right now, we don't see this as entirely a sign of the times but more about Porter's business model," said Healey. 

She said "the prospects are quite bright," pointing to strong tourism numbers and expansions with hotels, the St. John's Convention Centre and the airport.

As for Porter, spokesperson Brad Cicero said the company would not be releasing passenger traffic information, but they did look at other options before cutting all service for those winter months. 

Porter had been offering just one flight a day to St. John's during that time period, and Cicero said the company will be ready to continue service as usual in April.

A Porter Airlines aircraft taxis on the runway at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport on Friday June 28 2013. (Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)