Hello, Flight-Report.com community, and welcome to my latest whirlwind adventure to Asia, featuring a healthy dose of Cathay Pacific First Class, a bit of Business Class and First Class with JAL, and brief experiments with Porter Airlines economy class and Delta regional jet.
PD945 - YTZ-BOS - 9/17/2018 - Q400 - Y - You are here CX811 - BOS-HKG - 9/18/2018 - 777-300ER - F - Coming soon CX903 - HKG-MNL - 9/19/2018 - 777-300ER - F - Coming soon JL742 - MNL-NRT - 9/20/2018 - 787-9 - J - Coming soon JL6 - HND-JFK - 9/21/2018 - 777-300ER - F - Coming soon DL6366 - JFK-YYZ - 9/21/2018 - CRJ-900 - Y - Coming soon
Background & Booking
This whole series came together around the two Cathay flights, and once I’d found BOS-HKG and HKG-MNL with a nice long break in Hong Kong to lounge for the majority of a day, I was sold.
Getting to Boston was going to mean a revenue ticket, giving me choices of AC, WS, or PD. I’ve never flown Porter before, but was quite curious about it. There aren’t even many reviews online, and shockingly, none here on Flight-Report.com. Since they were all around the same price point, I decided to try the route less traveled, and try out Porter out of Billy Bishop.
Despite my CX flight leaving Boston at 1:50 the next morning — which should have been plenty of time for the last PD flight of the day into Boston, slated to arrive around 8:30 pm, I ended up choosing the second-last PD flight for the day to Boston, arriving early at 4:45 pm. Porter has a small fleet, and an airport that’s not entirely friendly to IRROPS… I wanted to minimize the chances of my first segment completely torpedoing my adventure before it began. Plus, checking the history on Flightradar24, the last flight of the day seems to arrive late, sometimes late enough to make the connection a concern. And it also was cancelled more than a few times over the last month — possibly due to escalating delays over the course of the day, and probably compounded by a fairly early curfew for operations at Billy Bishop. So better safe than sorry.
Total fare for the one-way, including a preferred-but-not-premium seat assignment, came to about $210 Canadian. Note that while Porter advertises a premium product in terms of passenger experience, it does love some ancillary revenues. Seat assignment, luggage, just about everything that can be extra, will be extra.
What’s all this about a Mangosteen? or How I Learned To Relax and Love the Super Typhoon
Booking travel to Asia in the fall always has some risk attached, and a fine point was put on that in the week leading up to my adventure as the planet was virtually ringed by nine major tropical storms. The two “big ones” were a concern — Florence, headed for the U.S., arrived earlier and in the Carolinas, and didn’t seem likely to make much of an impact on Boston, but Mangkhut had its sights set on Hong Kong, carried a “Super Typhoon” classification, and was being labelled “the biggest storm to ever head for Hong Kong. That’s quite something, considering Hong Kong’s history.
So for much of the weekend, I watched Flyertalk, Hong Kong news sources, Flightradar, and Cathay’s Web site for an eye to what was happened. And I had a backup plan developed.
I took some heart when I arose Sunday morning — after the storm had moved on from Hong Kong overnight (Americas time) to find that 811 had taken off from Boston on September 16 just a couple of hours late, indicating some confidence on CX’s part that things would be back up and running by Monday morning Hong Kong time, when the it should land. And news from Hong Kong suggested that by their Sunday evening, things had improved enough that flights would be leaving overnight in an effort to catch up. So I started the day Sunday fairly confident this plan was a go.
And I breathed a final sigh of relief on Monday morning, when I was able to watch CX812 leave Hong Kong just about 30 minutes late on its way to Boston. Impressive how quickly Cathay and HKG appear to have been able to get it all back together after a pretty major storm like this.
So now, once again, my biggest concern about this trip was Porter cancelling and leaving me scrambling. What goes around comes around, I guess.
Getting to Billy Bishop
So let’s switch our attention away from CX for a minute, shall we, and actually pay attention to this flight? Don’t worry, there’s lots of nice Cathay Talk to come.
I started off with a mid-morning commuter train for the hour-long trip from my eastern suburban hometown down to Toronto’s central Union Station.
It’s a lovely morning at Union. It should be a scenic departure out of Billy Bishop if this holds up, and if I’m on the correct side of the plane.
For the uninitiated, Toronto Billy Bishop is a small airport located on Centre Island, literally a couple of hundred feet from the shore of Lake Ontario in Toronto’s western downtown. It’s served primarily (and basically exclusively) by two carriers, Air Canada which does hourly service to Montreal, and Montreal only, and Porter Airlines, a small boutique carrier that serves a network of locations in the Canada and the United States, with Orlando Stansfield being its furthest-afield destination.
When I covered an Air Canada flight to Montreal a couple of years ago, I talked a fair bit about the history Bishop. You can check that out here if you’re so inclined.
TL;DR version: Air Canada all but ignored Bishop, until such time as startup Porter Airlines bought the terminal when setting up their own operations here and kicked them out. Suddenly YTZ was quite important to AC, and after much legal wrangling, they were allowed back for service to Montreal Trudeau.
As for Porter, it’s grown its network significantly over the last decade, serving a variety of locations between Chicago and Newark, and many points in between. It operates a fleet of Bombardier Q400s (built right here in town, as a matter of fact) both because it makes sense for them, and because it’s the only thing they’re allowed to fly into Bishop because of it’s short runway and downtown noise abatement regulations.
Years ago, Porter put in an order for the then-CS-100, contingent on getting the runway here extended, but to say that has been met with political headwinds would be a significant understatement. Suffice it to say, they’ll be rocking Q400 NextGens for the foreseeable future, as the federal government outright said it has no interest in hearing about proposals to put jets at Billy Bishop. Too bad — the range, size and comfort of the now-A220 out of this downtown airport could be a game-changer for Porter and Toronto-area fliers alike.
Porter markets itself with the tagline “flying refined,” which tells you a lot of what you need to know about them. While essentially an LCC with add-on fees for just about everything, its marketing message focuses on a low-price premium message. At Billy Bishop and at select other airports, they operate a “lounge” for all passengers including free drinks and light snacks. Even AC Express passengers are (grudgingly) allowed in. In the air, they focus on free wine and beer and light snacks, as well as better-than-average pitch for an all-Y airline. When they launched, they featured “just” 70 seats on their 78-seat Q400, although that had more to do with the short runways at YTZ than the benevolence of the airline. They’ve since discovered they can land up to 74 seats without running off the end of the runway, so 74 seats it is!
That’s enough background — let’s get back to the flight-report. Billy Bishop (read: Porter) operates frequent shuttle buses between the downtown core and the airport, with a pickup point across the road from Union Station, alongside the Royal York Hotel. And sure enough, as I arrived into Union, there was a bus awaiting me.
I hopped on, and after about a ten-minute wait, we started the short route over to Billy Bishop.
The arrival facility is on the “mainland,” while most of the airport is on the island, meaning that passengers have to make their way over.
Swimming is not recommended, especially between October and May, so there are a couple of options. There’s a frequent ferry service that takes a whopping 90 seconds to cross to the airport — and is the only way to come over if you have a car — or, there’s a pedestrian tunnel.
The tunnel is new since last I flew out of Bishop, so I decide to check that out. It’s a pedestrian tunnel, alright.
At the end, a series of escalators take you up into the terminal, complete with a replica of the fighter of the World War I flying ace from which the airport takes its name hanging overhead.
There are check-in kiosks for flights to Montreal, but everyone else has to line up and see an agent. Fortunately, it moves pretty quickly, and it takes less than 15 minutes to complete check-in and security. Even though it’s security explicitly for U.S. flights, there’s no shoes off here… are there different rules for smaller planes?
One thing I had forgotten — there’s no pre-clearance at YTZ, so you arrive into the U.S. as an international arrival. This oversight significantly impacts my game plan for my layover in Boston. But we’ll discuss that later.
There’s pretty much no doubt who runs the show ‘round here.
After security, it’s downstairs and into the lounge. There are separate lounge spaces for domestic and U.S. departures. This U.S. lounge has three doors, which serve three gates, with only Porter serving the area. There are a variety of seating options, and it’s fairly comfortable, but power outlets are definitely at a premium.
The lounge is right at ground level, so views of the limited apron action are spectacular, and you get a nice view of both the airport and the downtown core.
Here, we get a nice look at three Canadian icons — the CN Tower in the background, and in foreground, a couple of classic Dash-7 turboprops to the left.
There are “complimentary refreshments,” but they’re pretty limited. There are shortbread cookies, a coffee machine, and some cold drinks available.
This small sandwich shop is the only place to grab a bite airside aside from the snacks provide, at least on the U.S. side.
I take a seat and try a little bit of everything — some of their excellent shortbread cookies, a decent snack mix, and a bottle of water. It’s not much, but at least it’s on the house for everyone.
After a while, we get a little bit of action on the apron as a Porter plane pulls in, ready to load up for a trip to Newark.
WiFi is fast and free in the lounge, and does the job nicely. A quick corporate shot — there’s some new reading to be done!
After a while, I relocate to a raised counter with stools, just because it has plugs, and with no plugs on-board, I’d rather have my batteries full before heading over to Boston.
Feeling the need for a pick-me-up (it’s gonna be a loooooong day!) I grab myself an espresso from the machine. It does the trick. So do the shortbreads. Because they’re really good.
A quick check shows my expected ride to Boston this afternoon is just now leaving Chicago Midway, and should be pulling into YTZ right on time, boding well for an on-time departure to Boston.
A little after 1:00, as flights to Chicago and (an earlier flight to) Boston had departed, and Newark was boarding, things all but emptied out in this previously-quite busy lounge, making it a good time to grab a few more shots of the lounge area.
These little seats — there are only three of them — seem to be the gems of the lounge. They’re very comfy, offer two power outlets, and great privacy. Definitely the place to be if you can get ‘em.
Here’s the view out from this seat onto the mostly-empty lounge.
I spend some of the rest of my stay here doing just about the dumbest thing one can do when setting out for a week on the road — updating my iPhone and iPad to the just-released iOS 12. Because what could possibly go wrong?
Fortunately, it goes smoothly, and at about 2:30, I notice that my ride over to Boston has arrived in town, right on time.
It quickly pulls into its gate, right in front of the snack bar, providing a great view of its arrival.
The agent shows up at Gate 11, signaling that we’ll begin boarding soon.
And sure enough, boarding is started at about 2:55 with pre-boarding called first, and then general boarding literally a few seconds later. After dropping my carry-on bag off for gate-checking, I take the few stairs up and on-board, where I’m greeted by the flight attendant working the front of the plane for this flight.
The Flight Report
Flight: PD945 From: Toronto Billy Bishop (YTZ) To: Boston Logan (BOS) Date: 9/17/2018 Aircraft: Bombardier Q400 Registration: C-GLQR Seat: ??? ATD (STD): 15:33 (15:10) ATA ( STA): 16:48 (16:45)
I’m in seat 3A for this flight, the first row of standard legroom in the 74-seat configuration Porter uses on its Dash-8s.
Legroom is quote decent, and I felt like I had loads of room even when we were in flight and I had my laptop out.
No IFE, needless to say.
Porter’s FA gear, particularly for women, is pretty cool, a nice blend of a modern look with some old-timey “Golden Age of Flying” nods, like the little round hat, and the scarf.
Out my window, I’ve got a decent view of our stablemate, likely starting to board for Newark, where flights are being delayed due to weather in the New York area, we’re told.
Small — and largely unused — overhead bins. Contrast to the packed overheads one expects these days, even on CRJs and other planes with smaller — but bigger than this — bins.
A look across the aisle at the legroom for Row 3. The front of the plane would remain unoccupied for this flight, aside from one passenger moved up to 4A behind me, I presume due to weight and balance issues. With no one in 3B, I’m assured all-aisle-access on every flight in this series. Hooray for Poor Man’s J!
And the next few rows on the CD side would remain empty.
Seatback pocket contents. Clever name for the corporate magazine.
We pause for a while, the captain says it’s because of a delay in getting final weight and balance confirmation from corporate, and I’m good with that. But we push back at about 3:25, just about 15 minutes behind schedule. Again, super-nice view as we prepare to taxi.
The safety demo is given, and I’m reminded of the unfortunate Canadian rule that you can’t wear headphones, except for ear buds plugged into IFE system if any is available, during taxi, takeoff and landing. I’ve become so accustomed to just putting my Bose when I board a plane, and taking it off sometime after leaving.
Being such a small airport, it’s a short taxi, and just a few minutes later, we’re lining up for Runway 08.
As usual with the Dash-8, it’s quick acceleration and a short roll, and we’re airborne. The prevailing wind gods have smiled upon me, and I’ve got “the good side” for our departure out of Why Tee Zed.
Beautiful view of the Toronto skyline as we climb. Adios, Big Smoke!
Shortly afterwards, make a right turn towards the south and head out across Lake Ontario as we climb.
As soon as we cross 10,000 feet, the crew springs into action. First, the male flight attendant stationed at the rear of the plane pops by with the snack basket. On offer are chips, almonds, and the same shortbread cookies offered in the lounge at YTZ, so not quite as wide a selection as one might get in shorthaul F on a U.S. carrier, but a more premium selection than one would expect for the complimentary fare in Y.
Shortly after him, the female flight attendant from the front rolls by with the drink cart. Red and white wine, beer, water, and soft drinks are all on offer, and all gratis. No buy-on-board. The beers on offer are a Lager and a Pilsner from Toronto’s Ace Hill Brewery, and I think the lager will hit the spot for this flight. I’m offered a glass, but I decline it, foolishly. Should have grabbed one just for posterity, but I’m fine with the tallboy. The beer is decent, although nothing I’d order for myself.
It’s pretty cloudy both above and below as we cruise our way east southeast toward Boston, but eventually it clears somewhat, and the flight passes quickly as I enjoy my beer, listen to a podcast on my Bose, and work on this flight-report.
The Q in Q400 stands for quiet, and it’s way quieter than old-timey propjobs, but the Q400 is still fairly loud in the cabin, though the Bose does a pretty good job of regulating it to a background hum accompanied by that slight and omnipresent turboprop vibration.
Things get a tiny bit bumpy — enough for the pilots to put on the seatbelt sign, but not really deserving it — about 40 minutes into the flight, but other than, things are pretty smooth. The seatbelt sign would remain on for the duration of the flight, prompting a somewhat passive-aggressive warning that “if you get up at the lavatory, you do so at your own risk” announcement when one pax decided she had to hit the loo. A bit of a miss in otherwise pretty good, friendly service from our crew of two.
For much of the flight, the flight attendant stationed at the front (the female) was hanging out in the back of the plane with the other flight attendant, meaning that unless I turned around to look all the way behind me, I could see no one at all. It made it seem really private, although it did make me wonder about the loads PD gets on these flights — this certainly did not look like a profitable flight to me. But hey, this is about MY experience, and I thought the privacy added to the experience — not having another pax in your field of vision is not a typical Y experience, to put it mildly.
We started into our descent at about 4:25, with the captain indicating he’d have us on the ground “within half an hour,” and that things in Boston were hot (28 C) with high overcast skies.
We took quite a direct approach, and by about 4:40, we were on final into Logan.
Racing our shadow to the ground.
Crossing the runway at the same time as a JetBlue E-jet (and AA a little further down.)
Aer Lingus A330 as we taxi towards Terminal E.
JetBlue special livery honouring veterans, and TAP.
Delta and LATAM 767s as we make our turn towards our gate — we’d park next to the Delta.
And we have arrived, just about three minutes behind schedule. I guess my fear of running late was unfounded in this instance.
While they lined up the jetbridge, I chatted with the flight attendant up front. She’d flown Toronto - Newark - Toronto - Boston - and now home, for a four-flight, 12-hour day scheduled. “I’m looking forward to being home,” she said with likely more than a little bit of understatement.
The gate was quickly attached, and my bag was the second of the gate-check bags to make it onto the jetway, so I was off and running towards customers. But first, one last look at my little Toronto-made ride down to Boston.
Arrival into Boston
It was a long walk to immigration, but with Global Entry, I was through in no time at all. And it clearly wasn’t exactly prime time for international arrivals into Terminal E at this hour, judging by the state of the baggage hall.
By 5:10, I was airside at Terminal E, the same terminal from which I’d be leaving in about eight hours.
Which brings us to my little screwup in planning this. You see, when I booked with a long layover, I figured it would be no problem — I’d take advantage of Priority Pass to check out a couple of the participating lounges in Terminal E. But clearly I had forgotten that whole “no pre-clearance out of YTZ” detail. Ooops. So I wouldn’t be able t lounge-hop before going back landslide to check-in once CX opened up shop upstairs, because I was being forced to go landside upon arrival.
Fortunately, I quickly found a solution — the arrival level in Terminal E includes quite a few decent seating options, fast and free WiFi, and most importantly, abundant power outlets.
So I set up shop, checked in with home, charged up, and finished this flight-report.
Let’s leave it there, we’ll pick things up from this point when I head upstairs for my ride over to Hong Kong.
Thanks for joining me for this flight-report, and I hope you’ll check out the rest of this series as it’s posted.
Toronto - YTZ
Boston - BOS
Porter made a fine first impression, offering better-than-average service for North American economy, good legroom, and a convenient and fast airport. They’ll be even better once YTZ has pre-clearance, which I believe is “in the works” for sometime in the hopefully not-too-distant future.
8 LIKESLIKE TO THANK THE AUTHORTHANKS ! FLIGHT-REPORT LIKED
Flight-Report is a free website hosting more than 500 000 pictures and 17 000 reviews, without ads, this website can't exist. We understand that ads can be annoying, this is why we only display a maximum of 2 non-invasive ads per page.
To continue using Flight-Report, we invite you to add Flight-Report to your blocker's "white list".