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Porter Airlines is expanding operations in Quebec with plans to develop a new 225,000-square-foot terminal in partnership with Montreal Saint-Hubert Airport (YHU), capable of serving over four million passengers annually. Construction will start this year, with a scheduled completion by late 2024.
An initial investment of $200 million funded by Porter is earmarked for the new terminal, with up to nine boarding gates and upgrades to the airport’s infrastructure and facilities, according to Porter spokesperson Brad Cicero.
The airline says over 500 permanent jobs will be created within the new terminal and airline operations, and a new pilot and flight attendant crew base will be established. A new hotel with 130 rooms and meeting facilities will also be built nearby.
Saint-Hubert is located on the South Shore of Montreal, about 30 kilometers from Dorval — where Porter already serves Montreal through Trudeau Airport (YUL). Porter plans to continue expanding its existing operations there.
Porter has identified more than 10 potential YHU routes, from Vancouver in the west to St. John’s in the east. The airline also intends to connect YHU with both of its Toronto hubs — Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (YTZ) and Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ). Routes will be served with a combination of 78-seat De Havilland Dash 8-400 and 132-seat Embraer E195-E2 aircraft.
“Saint-Hubert has incredible potential as a complementary secondary airport for Montreal, with a convenient location for a significant portion of the local market and also easy access to downtown Montreal,” said Michael Deluce, president and CEO, Porter Aviation Holdings Inc.
Currently, Saint-Hubert is mainly used by flight schools, as well as regional carrier Pascan Aviation and charter operator Chrono Aviation.
According to Porter, “The new terminal will be open to other airlines, including Pascan Aviation. . . . Porter and Pascan intend to develop a codeshare partnership that facilitates seamless movement of passengers between their respective airlines. This provides increased opportunities for travellers to move within the province of Quebec and other regions of Canada.”
With Porter as an anchor tenant, Saint-Hubert expects to attract other carriers, according to Yanic Roy, managing director of Montreal-Saint-Hubert Airport.
John Gradek, an aviation expert at McGill University’s School of Continuing Studies, believes the move to Saint-Hubert makes sense for Porter.
“The population in and around Saint-Hubert is about 400,000, so the market is there,” he noted. “There may be some cannibalization that could impact Dorval where some Porter flights may be cut back. But they do have experience developing secondary airports.”
The big issue is that Porter will only be allowed to fly domestic routes from Saint-Hubert, as Dorval has exclusive rights on international routes — unless Porter can convince Transport Canada to change that designation, added Gradek.
“But a tie-in with Pascan will feed Porter with passengers from the regions of Quebec, similar to Porter’s agreement of feeding passengers to Air Transat at Dorval for international flights.”
Gradek says Porter also needs to develop new routes for the 50 Embraer aircraft it expects to receive by the end of 2024.
Another analyst thinks Porter may shift all operations from Dorval to Saint-Hubert once the new terminal opens, as the Montreal market is not big enough to support Porter at two airports.
“The value of Dorval is the connection with other airlines for Porter, but operating fees at Dorval are so much higher than Saint-Hubert,” noted Fred Lazar, Associate Professor of Economics, Schulich School of Business, York University.
Porter’s Cicero doesn’t agree with that assessment, noting the airline’s codeshare with Air Transat at Dorval is not “insignificant” and that it still plans to grow its operations at Dorval.
“The two airports complement each other, similar to Billy Bishop and Pearson, only in reverse,” said Cicero. “And like Billy Bishop, we will offer a complementary shuttle service from downtown Saint-Hubert to the airport.”
Asked whether Porter will lobby for international flights out of Saint-Hubert, Cicero said “it’s a domestic business plan at the moment, but you can never say never.”