With only a few work weeks left in the year and having a few vacation days to be used, I decided to take a quick trip to Toronto to sample three firsts: flying of Midway, Porter Airlines and the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. Neither experience disappointed. Porter absolutely lived up to its name: Flying Refined.
AIRLINE/FLIGHT: Porter Airlines/PD382
CITY PAIR: Chicago Midway (MDW) - Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (A3
LOAD FACTOR: 11% - yep, just 8 pax this morning
A 640AM departure out of Midway meant a very early wake-up, so to save time, I used Porter's simple and functional website to check-in the night before. This would be the first time I've flown out of Midway. I've landed there a couple of times so gave myself a little extra time to park, etc.
Upon arrival at the airport, I found the Porter counter staffed with three agents, including a trainee. I had to use their services since I'd managed to misplace my pre-printed boarding pass. The trainee was very friendly and was very helpful, providing directions to the gates. I went down the escalator and looked straight into a sea of humanity. It was 513AM and the lines for security were jammed. I found the TSA's "expert traveler" lane but it made no difference. None of the lines were moving. Apparently, a lot of people were eager for a TSA groping this morning. After about twenty minutes of creeping along, it was decided by the powers that be to move some of us in the "expert" line to the employee line. There we were treated to 10 minutes of berating by one of the TSA agents, essentially threatening us to not hold up the employee line. After 35 minutes, I'd cleared security. Whew!
It was a very quick walk to Gate A3. Crew arrived, looking smart, at the gate at 600AM. A gate agent arrived a few minutes later and the crew went on. Boarding started at 620AM and the eight, yes eight(!), of us gathered were welcomed aboard. It took about two minutes for us to board. The jetway was pulled back early and we were de-iced at the gate. The Q400 was immaculate and the leather seats were quite comfortable. With only eight of us on this 70-seat flight, every seat was truly first class. As we sat for de-icing, the pre-recorded safety demo was played as the two cabin crew acted it out. Once de-icing was complete, it was a fairly quick taxi to the end of the runway. The Q-400 is a little rocket and you felt it as we raced to take off.
Once in the air, the two cabin crew brought out a morning snack - a box containing a vanilla yogurt and a cinammon roll. Drinks were served from a silver tray. After the snack and drink service was complete, Canadian customs forms were distributed. Most of the pax slept and the crew came around, collecting trash and offering water bottles. They were very friendly. It was a very smooth flight. Beautiful day for flying. We began our descent soon, we were over the lake and approaching Billy Bishop Toronto City Center Airport. Landing was fast and brakes heavy and we were at the gate early.
Clearing Canadian customs was a snap and then it was on to one of the unique features of the airport - the ferry ride to the 'mainland.' It was about a two-minute ride over and then I took advantage of another unique Porter feature, the free shuttle bus to the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. Very convenient and I was off to do what I needed to do in Toronto.
After a few hours in the city, I was back at the Fairmont Royal York to grab the shuttle back to the airport. The mostly full shuttle was waiting, I jumped on, and off we went. Another ferry ride and into Porter's dedicated terminal. Canadian security was courteous and uncrowded and ungroping. There is no US Customs at this airport so I'd be clearing Customs at MDW. Then it was yet another unique Porter feature - the lounge. The gate space serves as a lounge. Lots of seating, free wireless, and snacks and drinks. The snacks weren't particularly robust, cookies and nuts, but were certainly welcome. I took advantage of the wireless and was glad to see that the loads looked better than my sparse flight earlier in the day.
AIRLINE/FLIGHT: Porter Airlines/PD389
CITY PAIR: Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (MDW)
SCHEDULED/ACTUAL DEPARTURE TIME: 300PM/308PM
SCHEDULED/ACTUAL ARRIVAL TIME: 350PM/338PM
EQUPIMENT: Bombardier Dash-8 Q400
LOAD FACTOR: 80% - that's a guess
Boarding was announced about ten minutes before our scheduled departure time and I wondered how we would make our scheduled departure time. Boarding was a general call but orderly. The seat next to me remained open and a few minutes after our scheduled departure, the door was closed and we were on our way. The two cabin crew took their positions for the demo. One took her place at my row and as the demo started, the couple in the row behind me began a very loud conversation and you could tell the flight attendant didn't appreciate it. Can't say I blame her - they were obnoxious. She asked them to please pay attention and their response was to lower their voices, just slightly. Nice.
Within about a minute of the completion of the demo, we were airborne. Service began fairly quickly. This time, drinks were served from a cart. Snacks, including chips (crisps), buts, and cookies, were served from a basket. After the main service, the cabin crew did a second drink run from their silver trays. Again, a very smooth flight and beautiful day for flying. Descent began and we were on the ground at Midway 90 minutes after take-off.
Clearing Customs at Midway was funny. Very small room but the agents were unfailingly friendly. I've always had excellent experiences with Customs at O'Hare (ORD) and it's carried over to MDW. It was a good day. Porter absolutely lived up to its "Flying Refined" tag. Very nice experience. The location of the airport in Toronto makes it a no-brainer option. I would happily fly them again.
Here's a couple of pictures from the flight:
[Edited 2010-11-20 06:55:42]