I’m a big fan of Porter Airlines. I like their marketing and PR and I enjoy flying with them whenever the opportunity arises, but I can’t help feel they’ve missed a trick. With a key vote due on on December 4th at City Hall on whether to vote on the airlines plans to expand Toronto Billy Bishop Airport to enable it to fly jets as part of an ambitious expansion plan Porter has a window of opportunity to control its own destiny with a smart PR program.
The company should take a page from the WestJet PR playbook. Earlier in the year the company flew one of it’s new Q400 aircraft – currently the largest plane authorized to fly out of Toronto’s downtown airport, and Porter’s workhorse – past the downtown airport. This was a signal to many that it was looking to add it to its network. [The company has already said that if Porter is allowed to fly jets from Billy Bishop then it should too.]
With one of the biggest issues around Porter’s plans the impact of jets on residents’ quiet enjoyment of the waterfront addressing and allaying these concerns could play a significant role in getting the vote before Council. Demonstrating that the C100 ‘whisper’ jets will not negatively impact local residents’ lives could be the difference between the company getting the go-ahead and being forced to go back to the drawing board.
How would I do that? Porter can’t currently land a new C100 at Billy Bishop – the runway is too short to safely land and take off again. What it could do is, known in the aviation industry, as a go-around. A go-around is where a pilot aborts a landing [often because of a safety issue or unexpectedly bad weather conditions] at the very last moment. Airlines and aircraft manufacturers have also been using a variation on the theme – a low, slow, runway pass, at air shows for many years to show off their new machines. Porter needs to organize a go-around of slow pass over Billy Bishop airport before the Toronto City Council Executive Committee meets on Wednesday – and it needs to invite the press, supporters, opponents.
Why would I do it? First, it would give the company a great media shot of C 100s at the downtown airport – a vision of the future, as it sees it. Second, it would demonstrate that the jets would not result in significant additional noise from the airport – reinforcing press reports from the first flight about the quietness of the airplanes engines – and removing many of the arguments of those opposed to Porter’s plans. Third, it would undoubtedly be covered by every major media outlet in the city as well as many across Canada and within the aviation industry. Fourth, it would add weight to its argument and provide ammunition to the arguments of supporters of its plans.
There are many other benefits from getting C 100s flying past Billy Bishop. T minus 2 days and counting.