Kevin Jackson

“We’re just getting started”: An interview with Porter Airlines EVP & CCO, Kevin Jackson

TORONTO — Porter Airlines is making the most of what it sees as a big opportunity in the market: travellers who are dissatisfied with economy class air travel.

Travelweek had the opportunity to sit down with Kevin Jackson, EVP & Chief Commercial Officer, to find out more.

The interview comes on the heels of Porter’s high-energy event at Toronto’s Evergreen Brickworks last week. Earlier this summer, Porter Airlines held Mr. Porter’s House Party in Vancouver. The premise was the same; a fun, energetic, highly immersive and branded environment designed to allow guests to experience what makes Porter unique in the market.

However, the intention of the Toronto evening was slightly different. Porter was new to the Vancouver market, so it aimed to introduce itself to the West.

Toronto is Porter’s hometown, so Torontonians know the airline, but they may not know everything about Porter today. The Toronto event showcased what’s familiar such as the downtown convenience of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, attentive service, complimentary beer and wine served in glassware, complimentary premium snacks and no middle seats.

Porter also shared new developments like flights from Pearson Airport, fresh meals, free WiFi and a quickly expanding list of nonstop destinations across Canada and the U.S.

Jackson talked to Travelweek about load factors for some of the newest routes, the importance of transborder routes, and why travel advisors are key partners.

Travelweek: Porter has been growing exponentially in the wake of its 2021 announcement about its expansion plans. Will it continue full throttle through 2024, and how many more new routes will be coming next year?

Jackson: “We currently have 23 Embraer E195-E2 jets and expect 50 by the end of 2024, so we’re just getting started. This year, 2023, was about launching an updated version of the Porter experience into the market and challenging the definition of economy air travel. Next year, 2024, is about building our network by increasing frequencies into existing markets in the west, building out the U.S. and adding more routes overall from places like Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax in the east.”

Travelweek: The fact that Porter’s ‘Actually Enjoy Economy’ approach is resonating with passengers, does that mean there was unmet demand for the kind of experience Porter offers?

Jackson: “We know from extensive market research that there’s a high level of dissatisfaction when travelling in economy with other carriers. We also know Canadian economy travellers are eager for an alternative. What Porter offers is far superior to any other airline in North America. We are confident that when passengers have a choice, our reputation for service and the quality of our product will be key deciding factors for many economy travellers. Economy is the biggest piece of the air travel market at 90% of travellers. It’s also a diverse segment as there are business, leisure and premium travellers who fly in economy. Our mission is to elevate economy air travel for everyone.”

Travelweek: How are bookings looking moving forward for the new Canada routes; Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg? 

Jackson: We’ve seen great demand and revenue records on the west coast markets. In the summer, we had 70 and 80% load factors. So far, we’re really pleased with what we’re seeing for fall and winter bookings.”

Travelweek: How is the outlook in Florida so far after the initial launch on the Tampa & Fort Myers routes? 

Jackson: “We’re seeing very strong bookings across all of the Florida markets, and especially those from Ottawa. We have strong load factors from Canada to Florida during the holiday season and we’re working really hard to fill nonpeak flying. Canadians will always travel to Florida, and now they can choose to fly in an entirely new way with Porter.”

Travelweek: Why was Las Vegas the next logical destination for Porter? 

Jackson: “The next batch of destinations that we’ve announced are all in the western U.S. – Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas – and start in the first quarter of 2024. Overall, we’re prioritizing the top transborder markets and these cities all fall within this category. It also brings us into another region of North America for the first time, as we build our continental network.”

Travelweek: Can you remind us of what you do for travel agents who book their clients with Porter?

Jackson: “Travel agencies are growing in importance for Porter, as we enter markets beyond our traditional regional network in Eastern Canada and the U.S. They are often the first ones to tell potential customers about us in new markets and the share of travel agency revenue has increased by 10 points to 45% over the course of 2023. They also have a big role in key leisure markets like Florida and Vegas.

“We have a variety of commissionable products for registered Canadian agents. We offer 4% for the Flexible/Freedom, 8% on Navigate and Ultimate fare classes, and 5% on the Porter Pass product, which is a bundled package of one-way pre-paid flights. You can purchase 10 to 100 flights at a time, targeted to a route or region. We also offer travel agents 5% commission on Porter Escapes packaged products.”

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