Thursday, February 18, 2010

Porter Air Lands at MaRS :: Entrepreneurship Talk

Robert Deluce, CEO of Porter Airlines at MaRS, 17 February 2010, by Kenneth M. Kambara

Yesterday, I braved the spitting weather to go to a "Lived It" talk at the MaRS Centre on College here in Toronto. The talk was interesting, as I had a professor {Forrest Harding} when I was an undergraduate who was an airline expert, so I was interested in what Porter was up to. Here's an overview from my notes::
  1. Porter is privately held
  2. Regional airline with Billy Bishop-Toronto City Airport {YTZ} as a hub
  3. Uses Bombardier Q400 turboprops in its fleet, which are quite efficient for regional travel {not interregional travel}
  4. Porter has higher yields {RpK} and efficiencies allow lower load factors
  5. Ability to withstand pressures from the revenue side {price competition} or cost-side {increased input costs, e.g., jet fuel}
  6. Focus on service and a value proposition between economy and first class air travel
  7. Company has strategic discipline
  8. Brand and experience "on code" with target market
If I were to characterize Porter in a word, it would be nimble. They see opportunities and are careful not to overextend themselves. The use of Bombardier planes made in the GTA in Downsview made me think of how Jet America used Long Beach, California{LGB} as a hub, since they sourced their planes from McDonald Douglas, which was literally down the street. If they needed a part, they just needed to go down the road. They also engage in sensemaking of their market and business environment. When faced with the bridge to Toronto City Airport being thwarted by Mayor Miller, they focused on other elements of their business. They are also modifying their routes based on seasonality, such as fewer flights to Ottawa in the summer and more flights to the Maritimes. I also get a sense that the company has strong interorganizational networking skills, in the areas of finance and supply-chain management.

I've flown Porter once, from Toronto to Newark and it was a fantastic experience, particularly when compared with dealing with the TTC's Bloor subway and 192 Rocket and negotiating the terminals at Pearson. The one key attribute was you hear variances in the engine more on the q400, which takes a bit of getting used to. The service was great, there was plenty of legroom, and the flight wasn't crowded.

In their branding, they use Mr. Porter as their mascot, who is a racoon. Deluce said this choice is somewhat curious, given the high numbers of racoons in Toronto, which are far from beloved creatures in the city. Nevertheless, they leverage this anthropomorphized creation to develop a brand identity that I think is perfect for the airline. This is the clip Deluce screened, a promotional video where Mr. Porter experiences the brand::

I has a few questions, mainly on social media and the use of webfare aggregators, but I had to get going. I find Porter to be an interesting company and I might be interested in writing up a case study on them, so maybe I'll get my questions answered in the future.

Twitterversion:: Interesting @MaRSDD entrepreneurship talk in #Toronto featuring Bob Deluce of @porterairlines. @Prof_K

Song:: The Racoons-"Room to Operate"


linnyqat said...

That's a spiffy little promo piece! Although I gotta say, Mr. Porter comes across as the snotty New England cousin of Bert Raccoon. Ah well, Bert is probably a little too wild to fly Porter anyway.

KeriAnn said...

Glad you enjoyed Bob's talk! The video of his presentation is available here (at the bottom of my blog):