Airbahn: New SoCal-Based US Airline Startup

Filed Under: Other Airlines

It looks like David Neeleman’s Breeze Airways isn’t the only new US airline in the pipeline

Airbahn receives DOT approval

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for Interstate Air Transportation to Airbahn. This paves the way for the airline to transport people, property, and mail, within the United States and beyond.

I’m fascinated by airline startups, so I was surprised that this was the first I had heard of Airbahn, since the airline had its first DOT filing back in October 2018.

This airline isn’t a joke, as it’s actually going through the regulatory process, and it was also a business idea before the pandemic started.

Details of US airline Airbahn

Airbahn’s October 2018 filing with the DOT explains more about the plans that the airline has. First of all, Airbahn was founded in February 2018 by Tariq M. Chaudhary. He is also the CEO of Airblue, which is Pakistan’s second largest airline, with a fleet of 10 Airbus A320-family aircraft.

What are the plans for Airbahn, Chaudhary’s new US airline?

  • The airline would operate flights in the Western United States region by providing scheduled service to mid-tier markets, initially from Southern California to Northern California, Nevada, and Western Canada
  • Airbahn would be based out of Long Beach Airport (LGB) or Orange County Airport (SNA)
  • All planes and crews would return to base every day
  • The airline plans to be conservative with growth by design, and plans to lease A320s from Airblue; Airbahn would have two planes within 12 months
  • Airbahn’s A320s would have 174 seats each, in a one class configuration
  • At the time of the October 2018 filing, the plan was for Airbahn to launch operations in June 2019, though obviously that hasn’t happened

Airbahn has a jobs page up, and is allegedly looking for 75 flight attendants and 36 pilots, among others.

My thoughts on Airbahn

I have a few general thoughts on the airline based on what I’ve read:

  • This is perhaps one of the more realistic and modest alleged US airline startups we’ve seen in a while, at least compared to Avatar Airlines, Global Ghana Airlines, etc.
  • Even though the plan to launch flights out of Long Beach was devised in 2018, this might actually be a great time for that, as JetBlue has just left Long Beach altogether
  • This plan was first announced in late 2018, and with DOT approval having just come through, I’ll be curious to see if the company still moves forward in light of the pandemic

Bottom line

Airbahn is a US airline startup that plans to operate out of Southern California, to destinations in California, Nevada, and Western Canada. The airline will get two A320s from Airblue, a Pakistani airline run by the same person.

The airline has just received its latest DOT approval, so it’ll be interesting to see if the airline moves forward with its plans, given how market conditions have changed.

What do you think — will Airbahn become a reality?

(Featured image courtesy of Konstantin von Wedelstaedt)

  1. DOA if B6 abandoned LGB they will not have more success, everyone seems to be targeting those “secondary airports” but the fact is that is aviation is over saturated and an airline with 2 frames and zero recourse in event of irops has a close to nil chance of being successful

  2. Airblue is a pretty basic but good airline. I flew them in July of 2019 from Karachi to Islamabad on an A321. Their interiors are basic (like Lufthansa’s short haul aircraft) but they served some pretty good sandwiches and tea/coffee in economy, which is awesome for a one hour flight! I get less service on a similar length AA flight in First Class. The FA’s were also amazing. This was my first time flying a Pakistani airline and it was a really nice flight (and airblue is a “low cost” airline).

    If this airline does go through, I hope they offer food in economy 🙂

  3. LGB does not have a customs facility, so they wouldn’t be able to process flights from Canada. Jetblue’s hope was to start flights to Mexico out of LGB and was even willing pay for the new facility on their own, but Long Beach voted it down.

  4. After seeing how Washington was quick to loan airlines billions but refuses to glance at coach companies I can understand the appeal of owning an airline

  5. @aaron there’s preclearance in Canada hence no need for customs at LGB
    LGB’s longest runway is 10000 feet and room for terminal expansion . The was the potential for longhaul and expansion , however that isn’t possible

    As for starting a new airline now …

  6. @Icarus – Even though there’s pre-clearance in Canada, there still has to be some amount of ICE/customs presence at the destination. (Alaska Airlines discovered this when they tried to fly YVR-SNA back in 2002 and discovered SNA didn’t have the necessary facilities at the last moment – I’m fairly certain LGB has the necessary level, but it is something to consdier.

  7. It’s odd to me how hostile the US flying public is to secondary airports. The flying experience is so much nicer! Sure, its great to have an airport like LAX to flights everywhere on earth…but most people arent flying everywhere. Theyre flying to the same limited places.

    Used to love flying into Manchester NH instead of Boston when visiting family, but now theres like 60% less flight options there.

  8. This is a fresh idea. Has not been tried before.
    They may want to choose a catchier name. How about California Pacific?

  9. Startup used to mean software technology or sometimes computer chip. Now, its basically any new company.

  10. My son used to fly home nonstop from BOS to LGB during college. It’s a great secondary airport with easy freeway access, short lines, and a decent restaurant. I hope they can take up Jet Blue’s slots and make a success of it.

  11. @polarbear yeah spot-on. I don’t see what AirBahn could possibly do to differentiate themselves from competition. California Pacific’s flaw was that although it provided a decent product, it was simply too small and mismanaged to be relevant. AirBahn definitely seems like that – but on a larger scale in terms of aircraft size.

  12. LGB had a slot auction and offered all incumbent airlines opportunities to bid on JetBlue’s slots that were vacated at LGB. Southwest took them all. If southwest doesn’t actually operate those slots within a certain time period, they could lose the , but the airport will open the slot auction again. So, LGB currently has zero slots available to full sized jets (there are supplemental slots for smaller commuter jets… less heavy 50 seat type commuters).

  13. JetBlue tried international out of LGB. City councils shot it down. Even after they spent millions in facility upgrades to accommodate international flying. The City Council not interested in the airport at all expansion. They have strict curfews. One of the reason JetBlue left can operate late hours out of LAX no curfew. If people in LGB want fly LAX to north or John Wayne to the south. This start up has 2 aircraft, they will break down and sounds like they have no back ups. They are joining a market that is already saturated, so saturated that in 2021,2022 I would not be surprised mergers start to happen. It’s a passengers market for sure as we have dozens of choices. They were to lunch in 2019 before pandemic, and were delayed. They have cost issues to deal with. Breeze airlines just raised 100 million from investors, that ain’t a lot in the big picture running an airline. Even they are having delays and Needelman is the best at it.

  14. The all important question might be what problem is out there that needs solving? Is this intended to reach Allegiant type markets that Allegiant has yet to arrive at? If we assume in the Covid era that legacies are abandoning outlier markets to retreat to hubs (started way before Covid), that aircraft aquisition, jet A and staffing is cheaper today than 2018; this could be a decent time to start. Again, I still wish to learn what is lacking in the marketplace that has yet to be solved?

  15. @Tyler

    Actually clearing in Canada is not a clear all. You still need to have a Immigrations presence at the destination airport and it needs to be approved. Just ask Alaska when they started YVR-SNA and that crap show that ensued, that route lasted 1 day. If LGB had Officers on hand when the plane arrives, in case a passenger is flagged while the plane is enroute, then you can do it.

    Obviously Mexico is a different ballgame and would need a Immigration Facility

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