Flights to Ottawa 1st for airport in about 20 years

·3 min read

Thunder Bay, Ont. — The inaugural flight by Porter Airlines from Ottawa to Thunder Bay and back was smooth as Capt. Allison Bell and her 1st Officer Colin Wood landed the aircraft carrying 40 passengers on Monday at the Thunder Bay International Airport.

The crew reloaded with 28 more passengers before heading back to Ottawa on the first of two daily non-stop flights that the airline now provides.

Porter’s expansion also includes two other new daily routes from Ottawa to Boston and New York.

“We’re in the midst of a lot of growth at Porter right now with a number of new destinations, and we’re excited about it,” said Brad Cicero, director of communications and public affairs with Porter Airlines.

“It’s a great new option for Thunder Bay, in addition to what we have going into Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport as well.”

Westjet had pulled their service from Eastern Canada earlier this year. Cicero says this expansion for Porter is more about the direction that Porter is heading.

“We have a lot of updates to our network that are happening right now, so Ottawa is a great addition for Thunder Bay,” he said.

“Thunder Bay has been one of our earliest destinations since 2009. We have at least five flights a day typically into Toronto, but Ottawa has always been one of the most popular connecting markets through Toronto. So now having two non-stop flights a day into Ottawa, we think will be a nice complement to this.”

Cicero noted that flight expansions are “always on the radar” and Porter is always thinking about what they might be able to do next.

“And now we have the resources to do it coming out of the pandemic and we’re looking at the network overall. There’s not quite as much business travel as there used to be but that’s still growing,” he said. “Complementing the number of flights into Toronto with these new flights into Ottawa, we think it’s a good balance for Thunder Bay.”

Ed Schmidtke, airport president and chief executive officer, says there’s been a lot of positive announcements for the airport in the last few months setting Thunder Bay up for new connections. He is excited to see how they do over the summer.

“Connectivity just helps in general,” he said. “The fact that we have Ottawa for the first time in almost 20 years, that’s a very big improvement in our connectivity to the rest of the country. The last time we had anybody flying to Ottawa from Thunder Bay was back around 2003, call it 20 years.”

Schmidtke said that the airport authority has constant conversations with all the carriers about how the economy is evolving and how tourism is evolving in Thunder Bay.

“I know the idea of direct non-stop to Ottawa is something Porter has been watching for years and now that they decided that now is the time is just great news,” he added.

Each of the 28 passengers who boarded the flight to Ottawa received a $150 gift from Porter Airlines in celebration of the new flight. Alison Seymour of Ottawa was chosen as a random passenger and given a free flight anywhere Porter flies.

“It means a well-deserved vacation for me and my boyfriend,” Seymour said. “It’s my first time being in the Thunder Bay airport and I picked up some native crafts to bring back home. I’m happy that they’re locally made.”

Thunder Bay’s Yvette Skinner had her photograph taken by her travelling companion Jessica Goodman prior to boarding the flight to Ottawa.

“I’m a little bit nervous,” Skinner said. “I’ve never been on a plane and it’s up in the air.”

The flight for Skinner and the rest of the passengers left on time.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal