Review: Porter Airlines Economy Toronto To Newark

Filed Under: Other Airlines

At the jet bridge passengers with larger carry-ons could valet check their bags, so that they’d show up on the jet bridge in Newark, rather than having to claim them at baggage claim.

Porter Airlines 139
Toronto (YTZ) – Newark (EWR)
Saturday, November 11
Depart: 4:10PM
Arrive: 5:40PM
Duration: 1hr30min
Aircraft: Bombardier Q400
Seat: 2C (Economy Class)

Rarely is a turboprop flight worth reporting on, though Porter is a special little airline. Porter operates a fleet of Bombardier Q400 aircraft, which are the nicest turobprops out there, as far as I’m concerned. Porter’s Q400s have 74 seats, in a 2-2 configuration.

Porter Airlines cabin

At the door we were greeted by an incredibly friendly flight attendant who verified our boarding passes and pointed us to our seats. We were in seats 2C & 2D, the aisle and window seat on the right side in the second row (though since there’s no row one on the right side of the plane, we were really in the bulkhead).

Porter Airlines seats

Porter has a generous 32″ of pitch, and the seats are well padded, so it’s one of the more comfortable turboprops I’ve been in.

Porter Airlines legroom

We were especially lucky to be in the bulkhead, which had ample legroom.

Porter Airlines legroom

I’d prefer the bulkhead in row two to the one on the left in row one, since there you’re seated right across from the flight attendant jumpseat, and there are also a lot of people in “your” space during boarding.

Porter Airlines seats

The tray table folded out of the aisle-side armrest, and could be folded over in half.

Porter Airlines tray table

In the literature pocket was re:porter, which is Porter’s inflight magazine. It’s a cute inflight magazine, and given the lack of anything else to do on the flight, I read it almost cover to cover.

Porter’s re:porter inflight magazine

Despite the flight being mostly full (there were about 10 empty seats), boarding was efficient, and the lovely flight attendant at the door greeted everyone with a big smile.

By 4:05PM the captain added his welcome aboard, and informed us of our flight time of 70 minutes. He said that we were waiting on one other passenger, and that we had a wheels up time of 4:15PM. Sure enough, at 4:10PM the cabin door closed, at which point the crew did a manual safety demonstration.

View of Billy Bishop Airport from gate

Around that time we began our pushback, which was really the first time we had a view of the whole airport, since the gate lacked views.

Pushing back Billy Bishop Airport

That’s an airport with a view, if I’ve ever seen one!

View of Toronto from Billy Bishop Airport

There were several Porter Q400s on the ground, and then also a lone Air Canada Express Q400, headed to Montreal.

Taxiing Billy Bishop Airport

Taxiing Billy Bishop Airport

By 4:20PM we made it to runway 8, where we were immediately cleared for takeoff.

Taxiing Billy Bishop Airport

Taking off from Toronto

While the views on the climb out were fairly nice, I wish we had sat on the left side of the plane, since there was an incredible view of the Toronto skyline from there.

View after takeoff from Toronto

View after takeoff from Toronto

View after takeoff from Toronto

Just five minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off, and we were treated to the most gorgeous sunset imaginable.

Sunset enroute to Newark

About 15 minutes after takeoff the crew passed through the cabin with landing forms for the US (my mom needed one, while I didn’t).

US landing cards

Then moments later they began the drink service. The drink options were as follows:

Porter offers complimentary beer, wine, and snacks. Not only that, but the drinks are actually served in glassware. This is a small gesture, but adds such a nice element to the experience, which you don’t get on other airlines.

I had a glass of the white wine, while my mom had a glass of the red wine. Snack choices included Terra vegetable chips, Blue Diamond roasted salted almonds, and Walkers shortbread cookies.

Porter Airlines free snacks & drinks

By the time the crew finished their service we were already starting our descent. I used the lavatory before landing — there was one at the front of the cabin, and it was tiny.

Porter Airlines bathroom

At 5PM the first officer informed us that we’d be landing in about 20 minutes, and five minutes later the seatbelt sign was turned on, as we descended through 10,000 feet. Interestingly the first officer sounded super southern (like, US southern). I’m not sure if Porter recruits pilots from the US or if Canada has the equivalent of Alabama, but…

View approaching Newark

At 5:20PM we had a smooth touchdown at Newark Airport, and a short five minute taxi to the gate, where we arrived about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. There’s something that really gives you perspective when you’re in a Q400 and park next to a British Airways 777.

Arriving at Newark

One on the jet bridge it took about five minutes for the valet checked bags to arrive.

Porter Airlines bottom line

Rarely is flying a Q400 anything special, though I have to give Porter credit for differentiating themselves. Between the complimentary snacks, beer, and wine, and very friendly flight attendants, this was easily the most enjoyable turboprop flight I’ve ever taken.

  1. I think the thing that strikes me about Porter is the sense of civility. That they actually treat passengers as human beings.

    If all airlines insisted on that – even with 30″ pitch and no all-pax lounge – flying would be so much more enjoyable.

    Thanks for the review.

  2. I always enjoy flying Porter – you know it will be as pleasant an experience as short-haul, mass air transit gets. I like the Q400, and I love Billy Bishop.

    Porter shows what can be done if an airline puts its mind to it.

  3. I’m so impressed by Porter! I wish we had an airline like that in the US, haha. JetBlue used to come close.

    Also, Ben, I hope you don’t mind if I ask: out of curiosity, I remember reading a while back that you don’t drink red wine. I also notice that you always mention drinking Champagne or white wine if you are drinking wine. Is it just because you don’t like red wine? If it’s the tannins you don’t like, you might enjoy a light-bodied, fruity red with small, fine tannins like a New Zealand Pinot Noir. A wine like that is also OK if it’s a bit cold.

  4. you mean you actually deign to travel in cattle class like the majority of us? maybe you should fly longhault economy so you get a perspective of how priviliged and snobby you are.

  5. Will never fly Porter. I was staying at a Newark Airport hotel, waiting in a line outside to board the hotel van. When the van appeared, 6 Porter flight attendants marched out with their Rimowa bags and pushed ahead of everyone without even acknowledging their aggressive and entitled behavior. There were people who did not get to board the van thanks to them. Yes, I realize that cabin crew are a priority but these people were obnoxious. I am sure prop planes are delightful to fly in winter. Enjoy.

  6. Yeah, Porter is what regional airlines SHOULD be like. I very much wish they flew out of BWI instead of IAD.

  7. You forgot one of the major negatives of Porter Airlines from Toronto Island Airport is there is no Pre-US Clearence like there is at Toronto Pearson. Meaning long lines usually at US airports when you enter the US to clear customs/immigration unless you have Global Entry status to use the machines.. Same returning back. No Nexus machines for fast track entry for Canadian Citizens. Seat and seat pitch do look good though.

  8. It’s great product even for a prop plane. The crowdedness of their “lounge” is an issue almost all the time though, whether you’re on the A side or the B side. That said, check in and security is much more civilized at Billy Bishop than Pearson (I’ve never found the CATSA agents there rude, but who knows), especially at peak times like around the holidays. They also have a free bus shuttle from the Royal York hotel so you can easily take the subway to Union Station and then the shuttle. I’ll be flying them to IAD on Wednesday, and then to YHZ at Christmas.

  9. The Blue Diamond snack that you were served consisted of almonds, not cashews.

    Headquartered in Sacramento, California, Blue Diamond is the world’s largest tree nut processing and marketing company, producing strictly almonds.

  10. I want to share that Porter serves local Toronto boutique beers — when I flew Porter several years ago it was Steam Whistle Beer — rather than the big brand names.

    I was tremendously impressed with their on board service.

    And @jh I can’t resist pointing that most of of us follow this blog exactly because he covers the refined travel available only to a small fraction of the traveling public. I know what traveling in steerage is like.

  11. @jh

    Why are you here? This blog is clearly not what you like. Can’t you find somewhere where you’ll feel a bit more comfortable?

  12. Lack of US pre-clearance can be a blessing. I’ve flown to Boston from both Toronto airports. Monday morning US-bound departure from YYZ is a zoo – huge lines even with Global Entry. On the other hand, international arrival in Boston is a breeze as long as you are there before the afternoon rush of flights from Europe.

  13. Hi Lucky, to your comment about reading Porter’s inflight magazine – do you ever read them on any of your other flights?

    I’m currently based in SIN, working in South East Asian region, I take anywhere between 70-80 flights a year to places like Jakarta, Saigon, etc.
    I love picking up the flight magazine’s from all the Asian airlines, as they have great articles with destination suggestions that are sometimes quite off the beaten path.

    Specifically, I love Garuda’s “Colours” inflight magazine and their monthly “Archipelago Journal”, where they are portraying a different island destination within Indonesia each time.

    Ever thought about doing an article on your blog specifically geared towards inflight magazines?

  14. Lucky: I have used Porter on this route 8 times. As an Australian getting to the US is a long haul at the best of times and I can attest that the flight and service quality of Porter is second to none. Indeed many Canadians are bemused that I have been no where else in Canada where of course – as with the United Sates – one feels welcome and at home.

  15. Bear in mind porter strictly enforces the a 9KG limit on their carry-ons departing from Toronto (a common, but rarely enforced restriction). To make this worse, they do NOT regular enforce this on flights from Newark to Toronto. So you could have the exact same bag and get surprised with being forced to check it on the return flight. This happened to me, got hit with the $25 fee for checking a bag (it was 9.8KG). Also the attendant told me while I could have still boarded the plane, my checked bag would not make it in time, so I would have to miss my flight. That was another $200 fee. This is not a professional airline. There are quirks, both good and bad.

  16. I wanted to fly Porter recently Toronto to Montreal but it was just too darn expensive, so fam and I ended up taking the train and had a nice morning.

    Also never been on a Q400 and I’m curious. Flew an ATR 72-600 from Edinburgh to Dublin not that long ago and thought that plane was terrific, good riding and pretty quiet. Frankly the only thing distinguishing it from a jet was the flight time.

  17. @jim fowler – if you are at Union Station (either the train station or the subway station), there is a free shuttle to the Island Airport from the west side of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, which is across the street from Union Station. The shuttle leaves every 15-20 minutes.

  18. @Charles – the last time I flew back from the US on Porter (2 years ago), there were Nexus machines at the Island Airport. Have those been taken away?

  19. Nobody here seems to mention the nice waiting area at Billy Bishop which is almost on par with an AA Admiral’s Club in other airports. Free expresso coffee, snacks, bottled water and sodas. Leather club chairs, business area with free computers (better than an iPad). The only downside is Porter used to serve a small box meal with 1/2 sandwich and a pasta salad during the flight, along with the Terra chips etc. That was quietly discontinued about 3 years ago. But still it’s a good airline expect for the lack of US Customs preclearance (if you’ve ever flown Porter to Boston of Chicago you’ll know why this is a problem). The only real downside, as one other blogger noted, Porter has a 9kg carry on limit, and sometimes they enforce it like military police. You have to fit your carry on in the sizer as well. If you are even a hair out of size or a ounce over the weight limit, they will force you to pony up on the spot.

  20. Sorry, I hadn’t noticed you had a separate review of the Porter lounge when I posted my comment above. I just read it – nicely done!

  21. There are NEXUS machines at YTZ, but no preclearance. It is supposed to be the next in line, but who knows now?

  22. Just flew Porter YTZ – DUL – YTZ. Really great service, and the employees were all very helpful and kind.
    I was on a Graduation trip with many other students, all of us being slightly rowdy and boisterous. Despite this, the stewardesses were very patient and kind, and several of the even joked around with us and joined in the hilarity. The flight back was through a thunderstorm. Despite the fact that we were constantly lurched around and that the aircraft was hit by lightning several times (I saw this happen twice), the crew were very calm and professional.
    The landing was expectedly rough, due to the fact that the winds were high. Kudos to the pilot though – I’ve never seen anyone spark rubber tires before.

    Sorry to anyone on those flights with us… it can’t have been easy.

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