Exclusive: California Startup Airbahn’s Summer Launch Plans

Airbahn initially had its sights on a 2019 launch. However, amid a government shutdown and then the challenging conditions of the pandemic, plans had to be postponed. Now, the Californian outfit is preparing to be up and running this summer. Ahead of the big day, Simple Flying caught up with the airline’s executive vice president, Scott Hall, about what we can expect.

Airbahn Aircraft
Airbahn is taking the right steps to ensure that it commences services strongly. Photo: Airbahn

The build-up

The carrier is presently recruiting crew members to transport passengers when operations commence. Amid the impact on the industry due to the global health crisis, there is a large pool of talent available. Staff members that used to work for existing powerhouses such as Emirates, Delta Air Lines, and JetBlue are being taken on by the airline.

The company is also currently working on FAA certification. With this process, it is presently moving from phase three to phase four. So, by the end of this month, there should be further progress in terms of official certification.

Airbahn Livery
The United States is seeing a series of startups taking off this year, and Airbahn is keen to separate itself from the pack. Photo: Airbahn

Behind the brand

Initially, Airbahn will be flying across the Western United States and Canada. As it expands, it will also be heading to Mexico. The decision to be based in California is in relation to founder Tariq M. Chaudhary’s existing operations in the state. The businessman is known for being the person behind Pakistani airline airblue, and he also runs an aviation software company based in Irvine, California.

Despite being run by the same owner and holding a similar name, Airbahn will be distinct from its fellow carrier. However, they will share some expertise and resources. Notably, management’s existing presence in Southern California is valuable to Airbahn’s operations.

“It’s a fully different concept and a totally different airline to airblue. But, Chaudhary owns another company called Zapways, which is an airline system that does HR, flight operations, and maintenance. So, the airline now has its own computer system that can run reservations on all the operations. But, Airbahn will still take some interest in what airblue does, and see if there are some synergies that we could do that would complement each other with vendors,” Hall told Simple Flying.

“But, from the operational standpoint, totally separate operations, full of separate management structures. We sure will try and learn from each other. California is a little different from Pakistan. Very competitive over here. So, we’re going to be a value-based carrier and the only airline based in California.”

Airbahn Wing
The airline is proud to represent California. Photo: Airbahn

The right price

Another similarity with airblue is in the field of pricing. Airbahn is also going for a low-cost approach. Regardless of the type of passenger that boards the airline’s planes, the consistent factor is that the pricing will be reasonable.

“We view ourselves as a value carrier and we want to make sure we’re providing you a great service, and if that happens to be a small business traveler, that’s great. If you’re going to college, that’s great. If you’re going to see family, that’s great. We’re not demographically targeting. This is a very price-sensitive market. It’s also value-orientated, and we want to make sure that when you buy a ticket, you know what you’re getting,” Hall added.

Airbahn Jet
Airbahn shares that it is not looking to compare itself with other airlines across the United States, including veterans such as Delta and newcomers like Avelo. Photo: Airbahn

“We have a very interesting pricing structure. I mean if you want to look at Airblue, on what they do, it is probably going to look somewhat like that. But, we believe we have a very good product we can offer to the US.”

A single-family fleet

The A320 is the family of choice for Airbahn. The company’s leadership believes that this narrowbody has the right mix when it comes to the cabin and efficiency to operate in its markets. The carrier will initially deploy the A320, but after entering the market, it may introduce the A321.

Airbus A320 Getty
The A320 is a favorite among several airlines when it comes to short and medium-haul operations. Photo: Getty Images

There is one Airbus A320-200 currently on its way to Airbahn’s facilities from airblue. Registered with the Karachi-based carrier as AP-EDA since December 2010, the plane was last seen in Turkey during the time of the interview. It was sent to Istanbul for maintenance. However, the country’s flights have been restricted due to the complications of the pandemic.

Nonetheless, when the aircraft arrives, it will mark the first of a series of A320 family aircraft to join the airline. Hall shares whether they are ceos or neos, A320 family jets are the right vehicles to transport the carrier’s guests.

airblue is also a fan of the A320 family, presently solely holding A320 and A321 aircraft in its fleet. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

A confident team

While Chaudhary has a strong background across the international aviation spectrum, Hall complements the structure with his regional expertise. The former pilot was director of flight operations at Air Pacific Northwest in the early 1990s. He then moved over to Grand Aire before becoming director and VP of flight operations at Chicago Express later that decade. Additionally, he had been part of the management team of ExpressJet for over a decade and a half.

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So, this balance of experience and knowledge may prove to be valuable for Airbahn as it prepares to take off this year. Ultimately, the team wants to provide its customers with a structured pricing model that helps passengers understand exactly what they are getting with no unwelcome surprises.

What are your thoughts about Airbahn’s plans this year? Are you looking forward to the launch of the airline and will you be giving it a go? Let us know what you think of the carrier and its plans in the comment section.