Top 10 reasons to avoid Porter Airlines

On a trip for a very happy occasion, Porter will be remembered as the worst part.

I remember when Porter used to be the standard for excellence in service – a model of a Canadian airline with the right priorities who cared about the customer. I remember once writing on Yelp that “I love Porter as much as a guy can love an airline.”

Those days are LONG over.

Now, the word “service” doesn’t even fit with their name. In the name of higher revenues, Porter has voluntarily abandoned everything that once made them great. It shows that their priority is their own bottom line rather than their clients, on whom their success relies.

For a trip earlier this year, I used virtually all of my points because I no longer care to fly with Porter Airlines. And by their policies, they don’t seem to care.

Here are the top 10 reasons why I will not fly Porter again until major changes are made to their policies to refocus on the customer rather than on themselves.

  1. VIPorter program changed for the worse, drastically devaluing loyal customer points

You used to get 375/750/1500 points (based on fare class) per leg of travel, and it used to cost 7,500 points to buy a one-way ticket, plus fees and taxes. It was a simple reward system that made redemption easy and predictable. Their VIPorter members relied on this system to plan for their rewards. And then they changed it.

The new system awarded 1/5 to 1/6 of the points that the old system did, while keeping redemption in the same “price” point. They advertised a “new and improved” VIPorter. Improved for whom? Oh, for them.

  1. Splitting up a father and his young child

Checking in for the flight on my above mentioned trip, I was assigned a seat near the middle of the plane and my daughter was assigned one at the back, next to a total stranger. 4 hours after check-in was opened prior to the flight, I called Porter customer service and asked them to fix this problem. The correct, “refined” answer would have been “sorry for that oversight, sir, we’ll get that taken care of immediately. Of course you should not be separated from your young child!”

Instead, the first agent told me it wasn’t possible. Why not? Switch someone who has no clue which seat they have been assigned to. There’s no way that everyone has checked in already – check in has only been available for 4 hours! Nah, that would be too easy. I suggested it, but was told that it couldn’t be done.

I didn’t accept the agent’s answers. She suggested that I “ask people on the plane to switch seats”. When would you like me to do this? While everyone is boarding? And what if people refuse? What should we do then? No thanks. You can fix it, do it now. She refuses. I ask to speak with a supervisor, after being on the line for over an HOUR! She puts me on hold for 20 minutes, then comes back and tells me she will change our seats to place us together. After 95 MINUTES, it was done. Why so long? More importantly, why was this even a problem in the first place?

Worse than my situation, we were seated opposite another parent and child. Getting on the plane, I noticed the mother wiping down everything in the vicinity. She explained that her child had serious allergies, and went on to explain the fight that she, too, had to have with a Porter representative to get seated together with her son.

Air Canada offers complimentary seat assignment for parents flying with young children.

Porter makes parents spend considerable amounts of time arguing with phone agents. Unjustifiable.

  1. Porter rules matter more than US government rules, somehow??

As NEXUS members, I was curious if we could travel with our NEXUS cards to the USA and leave our passports at home. The night before our flight, I spent over an hour checking the US Customs and Border Protection website for relevant regulations about whether a NEXUS card is a valid replacement for a passport. It is there that I learned about the WHTI – the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which specifically states that the NEXUS card can be used by Canadian citizens to enter the USA without a passport. Wonderful!

The check-in process on the Porter website advises that “Government issued travel document will be required to board your flight.” NEXUS is “government issued travel document.” Check.

On arrival at our home airport, we checked in at the automated machines, went through security, and sat at the gate ready for our flight. All of a sudden, the gate agent called us on the public address system. I went up to the desk to ask what was going on, and was asked for my passport. I provided my NEXUS card. In response, I was told that I would be denied boarding because I need my passport.

I asked why, and was told that they needed to know that I would be admitted to the US before allowing me to board. Uhh, neither the NEXUS nor the passport guarantees admission to the US, but they both potentially allow it.

The impact: We were rebooked on a later flight and I had to take a taxi home with my child, one without a proper child seat, to get our passports that the US government does not even require. We lost money and 4 hours of our vacation, and we arrived in a strange city at night in the dark rather than during the afternoon as planned, with a young child.

To make matters worse, we were called up once again in Toronto to provide the passports – for what?? The Customer Service Lead at Toronto’s Billy Bishop airport talked in circles at me, (annoyed) by my very legitimate question. She finally gave me an answer that basically boiled down to “that’s just the way it is.” But it isn’t. I had to provide passport information upon check in. They don’t need it again.

  1. “Sale” prices – 3 times a week.

Between April 14 and October 1, 2016, Porter had 94 sales on fares. If it happens that often, it’s not a sale. It’s the regular price. It’s rather disingenuous to price your business this way and insulting to anyone who ever paid “full” (read: inflated) price for a ticket. It seems obvious that their pricing structure is to attract customers with “low” prices for the fares only to hit with unreasonable, abusive fees for baggage, seats, and more.

  1. Porter – fee pioneer!

When Porter launched their fee for the first checked bag, they tried to explain it away by saying that everyone else was doing it. The facts tell a different story. Porter charged for a 1st checked bag BEFORE Air Canada and WestJet did. They didn’t follow a trend, they LED the way and created it.

  1. Ignorant social media diversion

When Porter announced a new policy of charging a fee for every bag, people were outraged and took to social media to complain.

In response, Porter was proud to point out their “free snacks and bevies” on board, ignoring that the cost or value a tiny bag of almonds and a cup of coke don’t come close to $27.50 plus tax (or worse…)

They also were quick to suggest GatePorter, their gate checking option, as a free option, conveniently ignoring that this option is not comparable to actually checking a bag since sizing is different and, even in carryon sized bags, some items are not allowed through security in carryon bags.

Porter doesn’t care to make intellectually honest arguments, they just cared about their “complimentary snacks and bevies…”

  1. Punitive baggage fees

For over a year, Porter has had a 3-tiered baggage pricing policy in place.

  • If you “book” your checked bag online at or prior to online check-in, you pay $27.50 plus tax.
  • If you wait until you get to the airport and check a bag at the check-in counter, you pay $37.50 plus tax.
  • If you go through security with your carryon bag and a Porter representative *catches* you at the gate with a bag that is too big or too heavy, they will force you to check that bag and charge you a whopping $47.50 plus tax.

NO OTHER AIRLINE does this.

And to show their priorities, Porter has invested in baggage size templates – you know, those things where you have to put your bag in at the gate to check if it fits or not – for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEIR GATES (and 2 in the “lounge”) at Billy Bishop airport in Toronto – Porter’s hub.

And if that wasn’t enough, instead of having 2 agents checking in passengers to move people along to their destination – you know, the thing they are being paid to do – they serve themselves by having one check in agent and one agent walking the line checking people’s bags, so they can catch people over their arbitrary size and weight limits. Air Canada flies the same planes as Porter from YTZ and can handle the extra kilogram – why can’t Porter?

This isn’t a question of capacity, safety, or weight balance. Rather, it is Porter deciding that the ability to charge an extra $47.50 for a bag that is slightly over is worth more than creating a respectful guest experience. Investing in baggage measuring devices is an investment in their own pocketbooks. Why spend money on your paying customers when you can spend money to force your paying customers to pay even more?

On the way home from our trip, we were greeted by a sign on the check-in counter at Midway airport’s Gate A3 that said “we will be happy to assist you 45 minutes before your flight.”

The agent showed up 22 minutes before departure and with 4 people in line at the counter that close to take off, her only concern was making sure that my bags still fit in their regulation size and weight.

And they call themselves “refined”. HA!

  1. Size matters

Porter advertises that they allow the most generous carryon size in Canada. This is true only if you talk about cubic measurements, but Porter allows 9kg instead of 10kg allowed by Air Canada and others. And that extra kilogram makes a big difference.

With typical laptop computers weighing over 4kg, and the bag having some weight as well, there’s not much left for your other contents.

Basically, Porter is saying that you’re allowed to have a slightly bigger bag, you just can’t put much into it.

And if you pack too much weight in that‎ bag, they’ll get ya! For a penalty fee at the gate!

  1. TSA Pre-check? Not with Porter!

My family are all registered with TSA Pre-Chk, a service that allows expedited passage through security checkpoints at US airports for travelers deemed to be low risk.

The problem is that Porter hasn’t paid for their travelers to have that privilege.

Porter is, mostly, a business airline. They are not new, and have been operating for long time now in and out of US destinations. They advertise a “refined” experience and yet they don’t care to allow their qualified paying customers the *refined* Pre-Chk experience?

The security line agent said Porter hasn’t met with TSA about requirements yet. Why not? My research says that they just haven’t paid the fees. She saw my Porter bag tag and told me that lots of Porter passengers are upset.

Perhaps it’s because they’re too busy coming up with creative new fees to meet with the TSA…

  1. Bad weather? Oh well… too bad for the customer.

Having purchased a ticket with Porter from Montreal to Toronto’s City Center airport (island), I arrived at Trudeau airport to find out that there was fog around the island in Toronto and that our flight would be delayed. Of course, that kind of weather concern is not Porter’s fault and is understandable around island environments.

The flight took off 90 minutes late and, thankfully, because of good planning, I was still comfortably on time for my commitment in Toronto. That is, until we got to within 10km of the airport and the captain announced that the fog had set in again and we couldn’t land. He announced that we would be circling above the airport and that he would update us “every 10 minutes”. Oh oh.. But I’m still ok for time. For now.

45 minutes and 2 attempts at landing later, the captain comes back on the speakers and says:

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. As you’ve noticed, we have tried twice to land at Toronto City airport, but the fog is not permitting a safe landing… We will be proceeding to our alternate… (Pause)”

He paused long enough for everyone in the middle of the plane to either mouth, or say aloud, “Pearson.”

Then he continued. “Our alternate is Montreal. Arrival time in Montreal is…”

We just CAME from Montreal! If we wanted to be in Montreal, we never would have been on this plane!

Later, I found out that all Air Canada flights were diverted to Pearson, and people were able to get downtown for their engagements. But not with Porter? Why not? Did they not want to pay for the emergency slots? They have landed at Pearson before….

Fast forward to December 8, 2016. It is 9:30pm at YTZ in Toronto. Air Canada announces pre-boarding for their final flight of the day to Montreal and its passengers (including me, thankfully) are walking toward the gate, happy that the 15 minute delay is over. We will get home that night.

As I walk by the Porter counter, a Porter agent announces that, due to bad weather in Montreal, the final Porter flight of the day to Montreal is cancelled and that they will be “happy to rebook everyone on a flight tomorrow morning.” Some consolation…

Absolutely incredible that Air Canada was able to fly the exact same route at the exact same time in the exact same weather with the exact same plane as Porter, but they couldn’t – or, actually, wouldn’t.

That incident proved me right. As long as Porter continues with these selfish policies and ignores basic customer service attitudes in favour of ridiculous, arbitrary fees, I will stay away.

And I hope that after reading my select experiences (there are others…) that you will too.

Only the consumer and our mighty dollar will force change, and we will only succeed in doing so by flying with the airlines that actually respect us and our business. Air Canada changed many of its policies to better meet the needs of its customers and do away with abusive fees. They have earned my business back, and I am happy to reward their positive changes.

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