Sunday, November 12, 2006

Porter 264

(This is a follow-on to Porter 245)

I had left my return a little later than anticipated but thought leaving at 7pm for a flight 90 minutes later from an airport 14km away wouldn't be much of a problem. I decided to give Ottawa transit another go. First problem was making exact change for the 97 again. Second problem was having obtained said change (and a coffee from a nearby Starbucks) I saw the bus disappear into the distance. Oh well, I thought, there's always another one on such a major route right? However, frequency being about every 15mins, journey time nearly 30mins and allowing for one service not happening left things too close for comfort and so I hailed a taxi as one nervous breakdown per day was enough. The fare was, well, substantially higher than $3.

Ottawa MacDonald-Cartier is a modern well appointed building in my opinion. Gate 18 is fairly isolated and quiet but it's just another gate. Unlike City Centre there are no lounge facilities and wifi is a pay service for which I couldn't be bothered registering for the sake of half an hour. The one difference was boarding from a jetway rather than the aircraft's airstairs - deplaning and boarding in Ottawa is the first time I haven't walked on the apron for a turboprop flight.

This flight had a few more punters - about 12-13 I think. Like at Toronto engine start was done after boarding (on some flights I have been on previously the right engine was running) and after a short taxi we turned onto the runway. Takeoff is different to a jet, where generally there is a two stage power increase. Here it seemed like we turned onto the runway and were barrelling down almost before you knew it. Being on the outskirts of Ottawa there wasn't much to see on the climb out. I didn't notice much difference in the noise level being in row 3 this time.

Service was Walker's biscuits (cookies for my North American readers) made in Scotland - an odd choice considering Porter's emphasis on Torontonian and Canadian products such as the Jackson-Triggs Niagara chardonnay they also served (in a glass etched with the airline's name). Their reference to Swiss carpeting on the aircraft was also a bit jarring in this context. A visit to East York's Peek Freans would be a good start :)

The flight operated along the coast of Lake Ontario, and as we passed the eastern commuter towns like Oshawa, Pickering, Ajax the density of the light pollution from streetlights covered more and more of the view compared to the virtual darkness once the Ottawa area had been cleared. We were landing eastward on runway 08 so we flew parallel to Toronto harbourfront beyond the Islands before a right turn back for landing, giving an excellent view of the downtown core, the CN Tower and Ted's Shed.

While turning for the approach I noticed the searchlight effects that someone in West Toronto points in the sky - I see them sometimes at home too - any idea who that is? Presumably they are only allowed shine them in a certain area to avoid blinding pilots especially those heading for Pearson.

Once landed the reverse journey to the ferry dock went as before but this time the Porter bus was waiting at the door. A short ride to Station Street beside Union Station later and I was on the subway heading for Bloor, then Coxwell, then home. (I could have tried the Bathurst streetcar for a one-change journey but once bitten and all that). From arrival on stand about 2130 to my front door was about 50 minutes.

Would I fly with them again? Yes. The difference in hassle between the crowds at Pearson, as well as the extra time to get there is significant. The question is, given that I only get to Ottawa once or twice a year, whether the business model will hold up long enough for me to go again. It will also be interesting whether Porter expands from its' Toronto centric website once Montreal and other destinations come on stream, and whether lounge access from those airports will happen. Once aircraft #3 and #4 come on stream for the Montreal service it would be good to see Saturday evening and Sunday morning flights as some colleagues mentioned having flown from Ottawa to Toronto on Friday but due to timing having to use another airline to get back to Ottawa on the Saturday.
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