Startup carrier Connect Airlines took a big step toward its first scheduled passenger flights on Wednesday, with the US Department of Transportation issuing a certificate that will allow the carrier to start scheduled services once proving flights are completed. It’s not quite all systems go yet, because approval still needs to come in from Canadian authorities, but work on that is well underway.
Connect Airlines gets the all-clear from the Department of Transportation
On June 24, the Department of Transportation (DOT) gave interested parties seven days to argue why they shouldn’t approve Connect Airlines’ application to fly scheduled passenger flights. No one had anything to say. On July 5, the DOT gave Connect Airlines the long-awaited green light.
“We find that Waltzing Matilda Aviation, LLC d / b / a Connect Airlines is fit, willing, and able to engage in interstate scheduled air transportation of persons, property, and mail,” the DOT’s final order said.
“We issue a certificate of public convenience and necessity to Waltzing Matilda Aviation, LLC d / b / a Connect Airlines to engage in interstate scheduled air transportation in the form and subject to the terms, conditions, and limitations attached.”
Connect Airlines plans to fly Canadian-built Q400 turboprop aircraft from Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport (YTZ) to US Northeast and Midwest airports. It is a similar operating model to Porter Airlines (also based at Billy Bishop). Initially, Connect Airlines is eyeing flights between Billy Bishop and Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and Philadelphia (PHL).
Connect Airlines will fly out of Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport (pictured). Photo: Connect Airlines
A lot of hurdles for Connect Airlines to jump
Getting Connect Airlines this far has taken some time, but the airline is no blue-sky dreaming affair. Waltzing Matilda Aviation is the company behind Connect Airlines, and they’ve been around for 15 years. Waltzing Matilda has long offered charter flights from its Boston base using its own business jets and other planes under management.
But Waltzing Matilda wanted to take the leap into scheduled passenger services. That required additional certification from the DOT, a fleet of right-sized planes, and branding that would resonate in the US and Canadian markets. Connect Airlines CEO John Thomas said,
“We thank the Administration and the Department’s team for their interest and diligence in moving our application forward. This major milestone allows us to deliver a smarter and more sustainable travel experience.”
Mr Thomas told Simple Flying that the Canadian authorities have a 60-day window to approve Connect’s Foreign Air Operator Certificate once Connect submits their US-issued Air Operator’s Certificate. Using their existing charter Air Operator’s Certificate, Connect has already done that, and Mr Thomas said he’s getting strong support from Canadian authorities and that they’ve promised to expedite matters.
Connect Airlines will start scheduled flights using a fleet of Dash 8-400 aircraft (pictured). Photo: Connect Airlines
Scheduled passenger flights on the horizon for Connect Airlines
While that’s happening, Connect Airlines has to complete some Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandated proving runs. That’s anticipated to take about four weeks and will start in mid-July. And what of those terms, conditions, and limitations the DOT raised in their approval?
Connect Airlines has to meet three criteria. The airline has to show the DOT evidence of capital raised. Having got this far, that shouldn’t be an issue. Connect Airlines must also inform the Department if they plan to fly more than seven large aircraft on scheduled services. Lastly, Connect Airlines must submit a progress report after one year of operations.
As terms, conditions, and limitations go, that’s not too demanding. Connect Airlines already has a pair of Dash 8-400s ready to go. After years of working towards the first scheduled flights, John Thomas says he’s looking forward to getting through the certification process and finally taking off.