Rob Deluce, Porter Airlines
"Flying refined" with Porter Airlines
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Even before the infamous Tammany Hall the conclusion was universal: “You can’t fight City Hall and win.”
But a Toronto businessman proved, against all odds, that you can fight City Hall and walk away the victor.
With the political card deck stacked against him, Robert DeLuce aimed sky high and pulled his business out of a political battle that has been raging on for years.
Back in 2003, Councillor David Miller ran on a Toronto Island Airport anti-expansion ticket in his first mayoral bid.
Island activists, who have fought any further “commercialization” on land they have long considered home, had finally found someone influential to entrench their cause. When Miller was elected mayor, most doing business at the airport thought it was time to pull up stakes.
A determined DeLuce, CEO of Porter Airlines stood his ground and refused to go away.
Miller was returned to City Hall for a second term in a mid-November landslide election.
But a month before Election Day, Porter Airlines was up and running with flights from Toronto to Ottawa. Montreal is being added to the roster in December and now the company has the Big Apple in its sight.
Come Spring, travelers will be New York bound from the new airline operating at the base of Toronto’s Island Airport.
“We get more calls about New York than any other destination,” DeLuce explains. “It’s clearly a place that people would like to have access to from a downtown airport.”
The fact that West Jet, the biggest airline success story in Canada over the past decade, was forced to drop flights to the Big Apple last year because of its failure to secure access to more gates at the busy LaGuardia Airport doesn’t deter DeLuce who’s always been something of a risk taker.
During the long battle to get Porter Airlines up and running the politicians got more political while the entrepreneur remained persistent.
Through it all, DeLuce stayed with his dream: today’s busy business flyers prefer to use Toronto’s downtown airport instead of fighting traffic and long lineups at Pearson International Airport in nearby Mississauga.
Spurned on by their voters, local politicians may have underestimated DeLuce in one department: the airline business is in his blood.
Even as protests and red tape kept him busy, he was planning on taking the battle to where he really wanted it to be, in brisk competition with other airlines. DeLuce knows the business and says his plans for the Big Apple include flights to both LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International Airport in neighbouring New Jersey. Liberty International, he said, is growing in popularity among the people who count most, the customers. That’s because of Liberty International’s connections to Manhattan. Flights to Chicago would land at Midway International airport.
DeLuce’s business, just one month old, is showing signs that would be welcomed by any entrepreneur. The airlines load factors—an industry measure of how well an airline fills its planes—are better than originally expected.
“I think both West Jet and Air Canada are feeling the effects of Porter being in the marketplace,” he says proudly.
Word of mouth is still the most effective kind of advertising and customers are giving thumbs up to Porter Airlines.
The entrepreneur hit the nail on the head with his motto of “flying refined” at a time when rampant airline cost cutting is all but an industry signature.
Customers rave about the extras that come with flying with Porter Airlines.
Others take inspiration from the man who proved that you can fight City Hall and win. But Robert DeLuce isn’t gloating, he’s too busy making a success of his airline.