(MONTREAL, QC) – It is a ferocious battle for the transportation business in the Toronto to Montreal corridor. You can drive yourself, take a bus, fly, or take the train. What is the best option?
It’s a personal choice. I have taken all the options over the past 25 years, so my observations are not those of a newbie.
As an intro, I’ll let you know, despite my many trips on Via Rail, it refused to participate in this article. A taste of the Government of Canada crown corporation inflexibility?
Yet Porter Airlines was certainly game to get me on board as they have kindly done in the past. They do seem to realize the importance of media relations, unlike certain other air and rail carriers to Montreal.
Bus and train transportation offers no security upon check-in however, considering the ramblings of extremists such as John Maguire encouraging attacks on Canada, I’ll take off my belt and shoes for a security check at Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto. Better than an unsecured Via walk-on at Toronto’s Union Station; and upon return to La Gare Centrale in Montreal.
Check in at Toronto’s Pearson Airport is a nightmare, even if you have printed off a boarding pass. Scratch your head at duplicated and triplicated Air Canada check in. It’s always a speedy and quick check in at Billy Bishop Airport. Not so much at Trudeau heading back to Toronto where security lines can stretch on for miles.
Leaving from Billy Bishop is to be treated like a human being at the Porter departure lounge. Although it’s not equivalent to most first class airport departure clubs, it does treat you like a human being with water, almonds, chocolate chip cookies, pop, and all manner of coffee and tea.
There is no equivalent on the return trip to Toronto from Montreal, however. Porter has tried it’s best to offer a quasi lounge in Newark’s Liberty International Airport. Why not in Montreal?
Door to Door Time
On Porter, from home to hotel, it is a 4-hour trip. It is six hours on the train and by car.
On Board Service
My goodness. A glass of red (Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc) or white (Chardonnay) wine from Jackson Triggs or a Steam Whistle Pilsner (cold if you can believe that) with some Terra gluten-free veggie chips, smoked almonds, or chocolate chip cookies.
On VIA you get nada, unless you are in Via 1. In which case, on your 6-hour trip, you are certainly well treated in the food and wine/spirits department. Unlike Air Canada, you may even be asked by Porter if you’d like a refill.
The Ferry Ride
To get to Billy Bishop Airport you need to take a very short ferry ride. In no time at all you arrive at the Toronto Island Airport. You can see this as an annoyance or as rather charming. It’s your chance to see Toronto from the water.
In any case, in no time at all there will be a tunnel under the lake so that you can make a 6-minute walk to the terminal. Is this progress or intended progress?
I’ll miss the ferry.
The Plane Ride
Do you prefer one hour on the airplane or five on the train?
Many a colleague has complained about the rocky trip on VIA, but few about the Porter flight. It might take a moment to get used to the hum of the engines, on the Q 400 Bombardier turbo prop, but it’s a nice hum. Just hope that you avoid any turbulence at 22,000 feet, which is usually a bit more severe than the 35,000 feet you might experience on a West Jet or Air Canada flight.
Our luggage had arrived on the baggage carousel before we even got there ourselves.
In my Volvo XC 90, gas will cost $150 for a round trip to Montreal. And I’ll arrive needing a few stiff drinks to revive me.
At the time of writing this article, Porter will cost you $304 and via VIA Economy Class $207.
Bear in mind, VIA will take you into La Gare Centrale in Montreal whilst Porter will take you into Trudeau, which is a $40 cab ride to downtown, or a $10 fare on the 747 bus at exit 28.
Should You Fly Porter?
If you like the security offered to you, by flying Porter, and the quicker door to door time, take the plane. If you like a slower rock n roll ride on VIA Rail, without any security, take the train.
Personally, the smoked almonds and WIFI access at the Porter Lounge beat out even the VIA 1 Panorama lounge, at the disaster called Union Station, where, for some reason, spring water is not in the fridge.