Another US Startup? Connect Airlines Eyes Canada Flights

A Boston-based jet charter operator is eyeing adding scheduled passenger flights between Toronto and the United States. Waltzing Matilda Aviation wants to start an airline called Connect Airlines and aims to start flying in the 2021 northern autumn.

Connect Airlines wants to start flying between Toronto and the United States later this year. Photo: IBS Newsroom

Waltzing Matilda Aviation eyes an October 2021 start date for Connect Airlines

Waltzing Matilda Aviation, a business named after a four stanza poem about a sheep rustler, is seeking to add FAA Part 121 scheduled and non-scheduled services to its Air Operators Certificate. The business has been operating since 2008 and has two business jets in its fleet – a Citation Bravo and Citation Excel.

“Waltzing Matilda Aviation will continue its amazing growth as a scheduled passenger airline connecting Toronto with numerous business centers in the US northeast and midwest,” its website reads.

Connect Airlines plans to use leased Q400 turboprop aircraft to target day-tripping business travelers heading to Toronto. Waltzing Matilda’s CEO tells Simple Flying the Q400s are ex-Flybe aircraft and heading across the Atlantic this week. The airline will fly in and out of Billy Bishop airport. Right now, Waltzing Matilda Aviation is flagging a 2021 start date. Subject to securing the slots at Billy Bishop Airport, a further five Q400 aircraft could be flying within 18 months.

The CEO at Waltzing Matilda Aviation is John Thomas. Holding an MBA from Sydney’s Macquarie University Business School and a former executive at Virgin Australia, Mr Thomas is a Sydney boy made good. In addition to running Waltzing Matilda Aviation, Mr Thomas sits on the boards of Canada’s Skyservice Investments and Reykjavík-based Icelandair. If that’s not enough, he is also an advisor to ATM Consultants and supersonic flight startup Spike Aerospace.

Waltzing Matilda Aviation presently owns two Citation business jets. Photo: Waltzing Matilda Aviation

A handy commuter service for millions of people

But Bombardier’s Q400 aircraft have a range of about 2,000 kilometers and can cruise up to 667 kilometers an hour. That gives the plane the capacity to reach around 50% of the United States landmass from Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport. With range are flights deep into the midwest and as far south as Florida.

That opens up multiple possible airports in the United States to a future Connect Airlines. The prospective airline seems to be targeting people who need to pop up to Toronto for the day. It’s a relatively easy commuter flight for people living around the lakes or northeast regions of the United States.


Some hurdles to overcome for Connect Airlines

However, aside from regulatory and licensing issues, two big hurdles may see this startup airline hit some early turbulence. Connect Airlines’ commuter services aren’t targeting leisure traffic. Not many people fly to Toronto for lunch or a holiday. This is a startup airline pitched squarely at the business traveler. Business travel is currently far below pre-travel downturn levels, and analysts tip this market to be among the slowest to bounce back.

Another big hurdle is the border closures and travel restrictions. Canada’s border has largely been closed to travelers from the United States for over a year. However, John Thomas is hopeful restrictions will ease over the summer.

“Most of the US will be vaccinated by the summer and the pace of vaccination in Canada is picking up,” Mr Thomas says. After decades in the industry, Waltzing Matilda’s CEO is confident demand will bounce back. But he thinks demand will recover quicker in the United States than in Canada.

“As such being a US-based airline we believe that relative to Canadian carriers we will be relatively better off.”

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Any startup in the 2021 fall will depend on border and travel restrictions unwinding. That’s going to depend on a whole host of factors, including widespread vaccine rollouts. The vaccine rollout is now well underway in the United States. However, COVID case numbers have recently spiked in northern states such as Michigan, Minnesota, and Massachusetts. These states will shape up as key Connect Airlines markets. But the recent spike in case numbers suggests the 2021 environment remains uncertain. It follows that the unwinding of border and travel restrictions before the fall cannot be guaranteed.

What do you think? What are the prospects for Waltzing Matilda Aviation’s proposed new airline? Post a comment and let us know.