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The new airline rivalries: Air Canada vs. Porter, WestJet vs. Flair

On a warm Wednesday this month, a cartoon raccoon raised a cocktail glass and sarcastically saluted Air Canada.

The social media image, posted by Porter Airlines, included an accompanying toast from the character: “Air Canada has now joined Porter in offering free beer, wine and snacks to all passengers. Thanks for joining our mission to help everyone actually enjoy economy!”

Tongue firmly in cheek, the post went on to ask Canada’s largest airline, “What’s next, a raccoon mascot?”

The online jibe marked the latest instance of publicly calling out competitors — a recent trend amid a transforming airline market that has companies stepping on each other’s wingtips in new ways and on a bigger scale.

In a country traditionally dominated by a pair of national airlines, a new set of aviation rivalries has emerged. Porter is increasingly moving in on Air Canada’s home turf of Central Canada as well as cross-country routes, while WestJet seeks to counter the threat of Flair Airlines in a shift from the decades-old industry dynamic of sparring between the two biggest carriers.

Porter, once a regional player hovering around the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal triangle, has over the past 18 months tripled its domestic market share to nearly 10 per cent. Turboprop planes were used when the carrier covered only short distances. Now it has 35 Embraer jets in its fleet and expects 40 more by 2027, up from zero as recently as January of last year.

The rapid expansion overlaps heavily with Air Canada territory in Ontario and Quebec, prompting the country’s largest airline to serve up no-charge treats and drinks. Cocktails also now cost $5 per glass, down from $9. Porter has long touted similar offers.

“It shows that they’re concerned about our market

Read more on globalnews.ca