Looking out the aircraft window to see the engine just before the sunsets.

A lot to like on Porter Airlines’ E2 YYZ-YVR flight

Cartoon of passengers, flight attendant and pilots onboard an aircraftThe airport express train from downtown Toronto to Toronto Pearson International Airport is infested with raccoons. From the seatbacks to the luggage racks, everywhere you look, a furry little trash panda is there.

No, I’m not talking about the city’s decades-long love/hate relationship with the animals. I’m talking about Mr. Porter, the anthropomorphic mascot of Porter Airlines. The sharply-dressed critter was seemingly ubiquitous, advertising the carrier’s recently refreshed economy product and, importantly, their foray into the world of jets.

That last part was what had me in Toronto, as I endeavored to experience Porter’s nascent Embraer E195-E2 jet service on a flight to Vancouver, B.C.

Porter Airlines cartoon Panda enjoying a drink on the aircraft.I booked the one-way ticket several weeks in advance on the carrier’s website, flyporter.com. Porter offers two fare classes on its jet service: Porter Classic, and a quasi-premium option called Porter Reserve. The latter comes with dedicated check-in, early boarding, extra seat pitch, better meals, and refundable/changeable options.

A screenshot of the Porter reservation process showing the different selections

The former, Classic, has four different sub-classes, which contain a mix of seat choices, boarding passes, and baggage allotments. I chose basic, which comes with nothing but a carryon, for a base fare of $129. A seat choice, 10A, cost an additional $45. Bags, had I had any, started at $40. For reference, all other Porter Classic fares come with one checked bag.

Bag options during the booking process for Porter Airlines

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, my ‘a la carte’ basic fare is more expensive than the standard economy fare on its face. However, despite Porter advertising seating choices that start at $12 for both standard and basic, neither option had anything available for less than $45.

A screenshot during the booking process that shows the seat map and seat choice price options.

I checked in via the airline website on the morning of the flight. It was a standard experience, except that it wouldn’t give me a boarding pass. In an unusual twist, basic economy tickets must be printed at the counter by an agent. Thankfully there was no line, and an agent weighed my backpack and printed the ticket. They also nitpicked whether the standard-sized backpack qualified as a carry-on, and off into the sizer it went. It fit, as expected.

By the time I arrived at the gate, boarding was already open to all. I stepped into the brand new Embraer E195-E2 jet, and settled into seat 10A, just ahead of the wing. A travelmate seated in the row behind me was unexpectedly upgraded to Porter Reserve just before takeoff. We never really knew why, but it did give us a fuller insight into all the airline has to offer.

Porter Airlines E195-E2 cabin interior features blue seats with great details.

The cabin is arranged in a two-two configuration, arguably setting up one of the airline’s stronger value propositions: no middle seats. All seats in the cabin are the same basic slimline style. Classic seats have 30” of pitch, with up to two inches of recline. An extra legroom-only option is 34” inches, while Porter Reserve is 36”. All have an above average width of 18.3”.

2-2 seating aboard the jetEvery seat comes with a standard 110V power outlet, bi-fold tray table, and literature pocket. Porter Reserve passengers also receive a cardboard screen holder for their tray table; the seat does not have one.

In-seat power source is seen up close between the seats.

Light snow outside had begun to settle on the wings, forcing a lengthy wait for the de-ice pad. The captain kept us updated with regular updates, which I appreciated.

We took off an hour behind schedule into the wintry weather, quickly setting a course west into the sunset.

Looking out the aircraft window to see the engine just before the sun sets.One of the best features Porter has to offer was up and running even before we left the gate; free-to-all WiFi powered by Viasat’s Ka-band connectivity system. Passengers have a choice between watching an ad and logging in every 30 minutes, or signing up for Porter’s frequent flier plan for uninterrupted connectivity. For better or worse, I chose the former, which required logging in 10 times over the course of the nearly five-hour flight. Probably should’ve just joined their program.

Login screenshot for Porter IFC

Nevertheless, it was the best inflight Internet experience I’ve had to date. It seamlessly kept up with streaming content from YouTube and Instagram reels. It had no problem whatsoever with surfing the web, and didn’t even hesitate to send photos over iMessage.

Speed tests regularly exceeded 30 Mbps down (fellow RGN contributor Becca Alkema clocked 58.9 on pre-launch show & tell flight), and 1-1.5 Mbps up.

Unfortunately the system’s pre-loaded inflight entertainment content, provided via a West Entertainment partnership, was not so lucky. For reasons unknown, it failed to load on any Apple device, instead showing a blank white screen throughout the flight. A fellow passenger was able to load it on their laptop, and discovered an average bank of movies and TV shows.

A meal service started thirty minutes into the flight, with the crew offering everyone on board a choice between a chicken sandwich, soba noodles with tofu, cheese plate, and salmon with rice. I chose the soba noodles, which contained a large helping of fresh edamame and crisp bell peppers on a bed of the noodles. It was incredible to have a fresh option like that on a basic fare, included in the ticket.

Soba noodles offered for the inflight meal in a cardboard container.

Also delightful was the environmentally friendly cardboard packaging, compostable cutlery, and repurposable cotton napkins. Even better, the crew was seen sorting the materials during trash pick-up runs.

A drink service offered a variety of soda, juice, teas, water, and alcohol. I went with tea on the first one, and a local beer option on a second service offered 90 minutes prior to landing.

A passenger is holding up the beer that was served inflight

That is not what I was expecting, however. In all of its pre-launch press ops and releases, Porter advertised that its Classic experience was limited to premium snacks, while meals would be buy-on-board. There were some snacks up front in the forward galley, but I’m pretty sure they were supposed to be for Porter Reserve passengers. I didn’t see them offered to the rest of the cabin.Premium snacks on a tray tableOn the one hand, I’m not complaining about a tasty, free meal on a basic economy ticket. On the other hand, it is decidedly not what Porter advertises, so I’m not sure if they changed their minds or if this was an aberration.

It also muddied the soft product waters between their Classic and Reserve experiences. As my travel-mate up front reported, they received the same entree choices I did, but with an appetizer and dessert. Reserve also is supposed to have cocktail options, which he said he never heard about nor was offered.

We landed forty minutes late through an icy approach to Vancouver.

If the experience I had was the experience everyone will have on Porter, their Classic fare (and especially their basic fare) is a slam-dunk PaxEx win. No one comes close.

A mint tea bag is held up by the authorIf I’m right and something was a little off here, I still think Porter offers a very good product that gives others a run for their money even without the freebie meal.


On price, Porter is a mixed bag. A recent survey of ‘three day weekend’ fares through the summer reveals its Classic fares are often competitive with Canada’s ultra-low-cost competitors. Other times, Porter’s total cost runs above full-service competitor Air Canada.

Reserve is a different matter, though. While the suspected experience aberration worked in favor of those in regular economy, it worked against the value proposition of Reserve. Add in that expected service components/offerings were missing, no hot meal options, and the same exact seat (even if it has greater legroom), and I don’t see a hard or soft product that is sufficiently differentiated from the rest of the plane. Certainly not one worth paying an extra 200% or more for.

If a premium product is a must for you, though, it is worth noting that the fare survey showed Reserve pricing at roughly half the cost of business class cabins on Air Canada or WestJet.

Porter clearly has some product consistency work to do here to close the gap between what they say and what they do, if nothing else. There is a lot to like, though, and if their network fit my needs I think you’d see me aboard more often than not.

Looking out the aircraft window to see the engine just before the sunsets.Related Articles:;

All images credited to the author, Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren