Porter joins competitor airlines with new entry-level fare

The company's new offering falls within a North American-wide trend that's several years in the making, says CMO Kevin Jackson.

Porter Airlines Inc--Porter Airlines introduces new entry-level

Last week, Toronto-based Porter Airlines introduced a new entry-level fare class to meet the needs of more price-sensitive travellers.

The decision falls within what Porter SVP and CMO Kevin Jackson sees as an industry-wide trend that has been around for the last two years – and which he says won’t be ending anytime soon – with carriers offering unbundled fares that give customers the option of choosing the products and services they find most valuable.

Porter’s entry-level fare class comes at the lowest price, but must be booked 21 days in advance and doesn’t allow for itinerary changes or cancellations. All bags, accept for one small personal item (such as a purse or briefcase), must be checked for a fee. And all services options, including checked luggage and advance seat selection, come at additional costs.

“Our brand, which we call ‘Flying Refined,’ is really about the travelling experience, about the speed and convenience, especially at Billy Bishop Airport. It’s about the quality of the service that our team members provide. And it’s also about the unique onboarding experience that we offer. Regardless of the fare type that passengers choose, they will all experience the same branded Porter experience.”

For Porter, whose focus has long been offering refined experiences, as well as speed and convenience (especially for Toronto dwellers at Billy Bishop Airport), execution will come down to ensuring travellers are well-informed about “the rules” of the fare that they’re buying, says Jackson. The customer’s experience should otherwise remain unchanged, delivering on the company’s brand promise of Flying Refined.

The company won’t be doing any broad advertising campaigns around the new class. Instead, its focus remains reaching customers who are looking for great deals on air travel through its digital and email channels, part of a direct-response marketing strategy that is managed entirely in-house. While Porter previously outsourced some of the work, Jackson says it now has the internal talent needed to bring campaigns to market at faster speed.

The rise of low-cost flights originated in Europe and the U.S., with the arrival of ultra-low-cost carriers like EasyJet, Ryanair and Spirit Airlines, but the trend continues to grow in Canada, according to Jackson. Air Canada and WestJet offer their own entry-level fares, and the latter’s new ultra-low-cost carrier Swoop began flying just last month.

“Airlines globally are responding to consumer demand for this type of product, and I don’t think you’re going to see that change,” says Jackson. At the same time, he says, some companies have been investing at the upper-end of the spectrum for their premium business travellers.

“What you’re seeing really is an industry in general that is doing a much deeper job of segmenting the type of customers that are in the market and providing fares and experiences that are relevant to that specific segment,” says Jackson.