Review: Porter Airlines Lounge At Toronto Billy Bishop Airport

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Review: Porter Airlines Lounge At Toronto Billy Bishop Airport
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While I’ve flown in and out of Toronto’s Pearson Airport many times before, this was my first time flying out of Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport (I have to make a concerted effort not to call it “Billy Bush Airport,” which for whatever reason is always the first thing that comes to mind — thanks Access Hollywood!).

Billy Bishop Airport is right near downtown, and the drive from our hotel took under 10 minutes. A friend said that if we arrived an hour before departure we’d be way early, so that’s right around when we showed up. I knew the airport was small, but at first I was surprised by just how small the exterior was.


Toronto Billy Bishop Airport exterior

Inside the door was a departures board listing all the flights.


Toronto Billy Bishop Airport entrance

What I didn’t initially realize is that this isn’t actually the airport. The airport is across a small body of water. Up until a couple of years back the only way to cross was by ferry, though as of 2015 they have an underground pedestrian tunnel.


Toronto Billy Bishop Airport ferry

So we took the elevator down to the tunnel, and from there it was a fairly short walk, made even shorter by the moving sidewalks.


Toronto Billy Bishop Airport tunnel

On the other end we had to go back up an escalator.


Toronto Billy Bishop Airport escalators

Then we had to go up another escalator to get to the departures area.


Toronto Billy Bishop Airport

The check-in area at Billy Bishop Airport is cute. Porter Airlines more or less owns the airport, so Air Canada has some flights to Montreal, but other than that it’s all Porter, so they had most of the check-in area. I tried to use a kiosk to check us in, though unfortunately it retuned an error message for our reservation.


Porter Airlines check-in Billy Bishop Airport

So we had to get in line, where there were a few people waiting. There were only two agents working, and everyone seemed to have complicated requests, so we ended up having to wait for over 15 minutes. For an airport that has a 20 minute check-in cutoff (45 minutes for international), I wasn’t expecting to wait that long. We actually technically missed our check-in cutoff, though the agents didn’t make a fuss of it.


Porter Airlines check-in Billy Bishop Airport

Our carry-on bags weren’t weighed, though I did notice some other bags being weighed. I’m not sure why that was. Below is the screen showing the baggage limits and fees.


Porter Airlines baggage limits

The airport has two separate security checkpoints — Security A and Security B — and our flight was leaving in the area covered by “B.” There was no one in line, though the agents couldn’t have been ruder. This is the second time in a row that security in Canada made the TSA look friendly by comparison, which is saying a lot. On top of their outward rudeness towards passengers, two agents were also actively arguing.


Billy Bishop Airport security checks

Past the security checkpoint was a great view of the city.


View from Billy Bishop Airport


View from Billy Bishop Airport

There we had to take the escalator down a level, and we found ourselves in Porter’s “lounge.” Porter is unique in that they have a lounge for all passengers at Billy Bishop Airport. Don’t get too excited, this isn’t the Air France First Class Lounge Paris, or anything. But it’s a lovely gesture. The only other airline I’ve flown that has a lounge for all passengers is Bangkok Airways.


Porter Airlines Lounge Billy Bishop Airport

The truth is that the lounge was packed as could be. There were barely open seats, though I understand they have serious space constraints here. There were a variety of seating options, and plenty of partitions to create a sense of privacy between seats.


Porter Airlines Lounge Billy Bishop Airport


Porter Airlines Lounge Billy Bishop Airport

There were even some dining tables and cubicles along the side of the lounge.


Porter Airlines Lounge seating


Porter Airlines Lounge seating

The lounge has complimentary refreshments.


Porter Airlines Lounge food & drinks

There’s an espresso machine, drip coffee, bottled water, tea, and soft drinks.


Porter Airlines Lounge coffee


Porter Airlines Lounge coffee


Porter Airlines Lounge tea


Porter Airlines Lounge soft drinks


Porter Airlines Lounge soft drinks

Then in terms of snacks there was a tower with snack mix, as well as Walkers shortbread cookies.


Porter Airlines Lounge snacks


Porter Airlines Lounge cookies

All drinks were served in proper glassware and mugs, which is also a nice touch.


Porter Airlines Lounge glassware

The lounge also has complimentary wifi, though we only had 10 minutes in the lounge before boarding, so I didn’t have a chance to use it.

The gates to the planes are just off the lounge, so it’s almost like the Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai, where you can board directly from the lounge… sort of. šŸ˜‰ Boarding was called at 3:50PM, and we were among the first onboard.


Porter Airlines boarding directly from “lounge”

Porter Airlines Lounge bottom line

With most airlines making the economy flying experience worse and worse, it was refreshing to see an airline that puts some effort into their product. Don’t get me wrong, the Porter Lounge isn’t that special, but I can’t help but appreciate the slight bit of humanity they put into the flying experience with complimentary soft drinks, coffee, tea, water, and light snacks.

On top of that, Billy Bishop is a cute little airport that’s just a short drive from the city. It’s not everyday you get to go through a security checkpoint where there are no other passengers.

Well done, Porter!

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Comments

  1. Lucky perhaps I missed something, but I am confused with your El Al routing. You said you needed to position yourself from Toronto to get a cheaper ticket, which I presumed meant you’d be flying an El Al partner from Toronto and connecting onto your El Al flight in Newark, so are porter and El Al partners and was the porter/El Al flight all on one ticket and just happened to include an overnight in Newark?

  2. @Lucky – There isn’t pre-clearance at Billy Bishop? I was under the impression there was -or was supposed to be- but I could be wrong.

  3. @CR: No preclearance yet, but it’s coming.

    BTW, no one calls it Billy Bishop up here. It’s just “the island airport”.

  4. I’ve had bad experiences with CATSA too. Not sure why they’re always so grumpy, especially at a small airport like this one.

  5. FYI, you are eligible for some security benefits as a Global Entry member. Here, it sounds like it wouldnā€™t have helped (since this airport only offers the front-of-line service, and there was no line). But, itā€™s worth remembering for the future. (See http://www.catsa.gc.ca/node/11 .)

    The one catch is that (I believe) you need to actually show your Global Entry card to get the special treatment. I showed the card the last time I flew out of Canada and was sent to the special line. But, since you normally donā€™t need the card to enter the US by air, itā€™s easy to forget to bring it.

    By the way, Iā€™m not sure what was up with the security agents. Iā€™ve usually found the Canadians to be fairly professional.)

  6. Geeze, that lounge looks like the New York Times news floor. I’d halfway expect an editor to run up to me a bark that he needs my column by 4pm sharp. Corporate cubicle slave camp.

  7. What really annoys me in a busy lounge is when selfish people occupy adjacent seats with their handbaggage as in the picture you post. I’d have no problem with asking them to shift their stuff to allow my bum some space but I wish people could be a little more considerate especially when it’s evident to everyone that people are looking for seating.

    I’ve passed through Helsinki quite a few times and the Finnair Premium Lounge gets ridiculously packed as well. One thing I do admire about them though is they make periodic announcements basically saying if you have your stuff of an empty chair, remove it so people can sit.

  8. The little ferry is a much more romantic way of reaching the airport than the efficient yet soulless trudge through the tunnel. Disappointed with your choice!

  9. If you like Porter’s lounge at Billy Bush airport now, you should have seen it before Air Canada moved in a few years ago.

  10. @Mitch Cumstein Capacity and crowding at this airport are not due to Air Canada’s tenancy–they fly 14 flights a day to YUL (they currently hold 15 landing slots–all new landing slots since 2010 have gone to Porter) and have done so for the past five years+. The problem is the number of Porter flights have increased several hundred percent in the past five years-new routes and increased frequency–without a corresponding increase in gate or waiting space. Coupled with very frequent Porter “sales”, leaves the waiting area (especially on the domestic side) feeling like a Greyhound bus terminal which no amount of free soda, short breads or coffee make up for.

    @lucky this airport is a gem. I use it often for day flights. Porter holds monopoly on the terminal space and landing slots, which is problematic for further investment and expansion. The convenience and setting of YTZ can’t be beat. However, over-crowding, lack of staff training, age of fleet (half are over a decade old), and weather delays/holds November to May eliminate are serious problems to be aware of when choosing this airline.

  11. I work here! For AC, but still! Sad I missed seeing you but glad you like our little airport. Some things not mentioned (that you just wouldn’t know about) the cooking were changed somewhat recently and it was a big enough deal that it was in the news. There is a free shuttle that goes between the airport and Union Station which is great. The airport is built primarily on reclaimed land! There is an expansion going on right now so some of the overcrowding should go away. Sadly, no new gates are coming that I’ve heard of. Both Porter and AC have free snacks on the planes which is fantastic. I’m proud of my tiny WW1 flying ace airport if you can’t tell.

  12. Ah, the rudeness. Remember flying in from Boston. The lady at immigration (one of 2 officers on duty) was in a bad mood; berated a visitor who clearly wasn’t fluent in English; then came my turn: snarled that my customs and immigration form was bent / folded; stared at her coldly and told her it had been in the pocket of my suit jacket; she apologized; amazing!

    Flying in, flying out, doesn’t seem to matter.

  13. It looks a really fun place to fly from and reminds me of City Airport in London.

    As a fellow flying enthusiast, I love travelling to places that are a bit different. Porter Airlines look great fun too, I must make a point of flying them next time Iā€™m in the US and have some leisure time included.

    Thank you, Lucky.

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