There Is An Airline Doing It Right!
A few weeks ago my husband and I were looking for an easy, seamless ski vacation that didn’t involve driving 8 hours to Vermont or flying out west and battling the altitude, the time change and a cross-country flight. We decided on the ski resort Mont Tremblant which looked to be just the right fit for us, but what sealed the deal was that a small Canadian airline called Porter flew direct between Newark and the local Tremblant International airport. I liked their tagline, “Flying Refined,” and the price was comparable to other commercial airlines, so we pulled the trigger.
I have never had a more pleasurable flying experience.
Porter flights don’t have a business or first-class section, which means no priority boarding (unless you are infirm or travelling with small kids) and their in-airport customer lounges are open to all customers. Here you can relax with FREE wifi, a bottle of water, some yummy snacks and even make yourself a coffee, cappuccino or espresso – in a real cup. Like in Italy. My husband and I slugged two each before hopping on board.
Once airborne, we had a very short flight to Tremblant (1:10), except that we had to take three approaches to land in what looked like a shoveled driveway in the middle of the snowy wilderness. (Pretty standard for the more remote airports in Quebec, or so I’ve been told.) After each of two failed attempts to land, there was a brief announcement from the pilot about visibility and then the stewardess came down the aisle with additional information, including a contingency plan to go to another airport should visibility not improve. We all felt informed and even the nervous fliers on board weren’t alarmed because we knew exactly what was going on. Very civilized.
Fortunately, the third time was the charm and we landed easily on our final approach, hopped a shuttle to the resort and had a great vacation. But then, another inevitable polar vortex of weather was threatening to hit Newark airport on Sunday, so we made the decision to try and get on an earlier flight home, just in case.
When placing the call early Sunday morning, I steeled myself for a long wait, inevitable extra charges and possibly a flat out “no.” I mean, this was a small airline with limited flights. After approximately 8 minutes we were booked on a new flight with a short layover in Toronto – no extra charges, no drama. The nice Canadian lady even apologized that our trip would be cut short by a few hours. (Really?)
I’m not a fan of layovers, but Porter flies out of Billy Bishop International Airport in downtown Toronto (with regular shuttles to downtown Toronto, which is just a few hundred yards across the water) and is the only airline to use that airport, making international transfers as easy as walking down the hallway. This also means that the whole airport is actually a Porter lounge, including a huge business center with computers, free wifi and an even nicer snack spread than Newark. Porter is currently petitioning to have an ultra-quiet jet approved for landing at Billy Bishop (they currently fly only prop planes), which would allow the airline to fly to further destinations, including the Caribbean. My fingers are crossed that this will go through – and that they will stop in Newark along the way…
I know it may seem silly that I was so floored by Porter’s cute lounges, good customer service and seamless flying experience. I’m also not alone in recognizing that Porter is kicking butt in the airline space – they were awarded best small airline in the world according to Condé Nast Traveler’s 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards.
The thing is, flying has become torture for all of us in recent years, so when things go RIGHT, it feels like being given a gift. This is a sad state of affairs, but it’s also an opportunity for airlines – should they deign to care about their silly customers – to set themselves apart from the pack with small, yet very important details. Porter has certainly done that in spades.
Oh – and onboard snacks and wine were free… What’s better than that?