Airline promises ‘refined’ flying

Porter Airlines will begin seasonal, once-a-week service between Toronto, Canada, and Charleston on Saturday.

Harking back to a different era of refined flying with leather seats, free drinks and flight attendants in pillbox hats, Canada-based Porter Airlines touches down Saturday in Charleston.

Under the slogan “Flying Refined,” the Toronto-based carrier will arrive at 11:35 a.m. at Charleston International on its inaugural flight from Toronto.

Arriving passengers on the nonstop 2.5-hour flight will have to go through customs in the rarely used international terminal, making the airport truly “international.”

The terminal is occasionally used for diverted flights, airport spokeswoman Charlene Gunnells said.

Porter will offer once-a-week seasonal service between the two cities through May 2. The Bombardier Aerospace Q400 turboprop seats 74.

The initial flight will be greeted by a water-cannon salute. Representatives from the airline and local airport and tourism officials will take part in a “Welcome to Charleston” event and reception.

The 9-year-old airline has offered seasonal service to Myrtle Beach since 2010.

“This will be a nice complement to that route,” Porter spokesman Brad Cicero said Wednesday during a test run at Charleston International. “Charleston will have a little something different to offer than Myrtle Beach.”

Cicero didn’t rule out expanding Charleston’s seasonal service at some point, but he said the airline has to look at airplane availability with its seasonal service to other markets.

“We think this is a good start for Charleston,” he said.

Porter pilot John Gronlund said he’s excited to be serving Charleston, a market he’s heard a lot about.

“Canadians like to come down for golf, and Myrtle Beach has been a good destination for us,” he said. “I think this will be an even more popular destination for us.”

Porter Airlines now serves 21 destinations with a fleet of 26 Bombardier Q400s.

For Charleston fliers interested in visiting Toronto, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is on Toronto Island and linked to the mainland via a two-minute ferry ride. Cicero said a tunnel with moving sidewalks should be completed this spring to offer passengers an alternate link to the mainland.

The airport offers a free shuttle bus ride every 15 minutes between downtown Toronto and the ferry terminal.

The initial once-a-week flight will depart Toronto at 9:10 a.m. Saturday. The return flight that same day will leave Charleston at 3:30 p.m. and arrive in Toronto at 6 p.m.

Starting Feb. 21, the Toronto-to-Charleston leg will remain on the same schedule, but the return flight will leave Charleston at 12:35 p.m. and arrive in Toronto at 3:05 p.m.

A second new airline will begin serving Charleston next month.

On March 19, Silver Airways will offer daily nonstop flights to Tampa and Orlando in Florida and on to Fort Lauderdale, where the carrier is based.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or