Airbahn: New SoCal-Based US Airline Startup

Airbahn: New SoCal-Based US Airline Startup

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We’ve seen two significant airline startups launch in the United States in recent months — Avelo Airlines and Breeze Airways — and we could see another one pretty soon. I first wrote about this airline nearly a year ago, and figured it was worth following up, especially in light of the other startups that we’ve seen.

The basic details of Airbahn

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 nine Airbus A320-family aircraft.

The airline filed with the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) in October 2018 to request permission to launch operations. At the time we learned that the carrier’s plans were as follows (some of these may have changed, as I’ll cover below):

  • The airline will 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 will be based out of Long Beach Airport (LGB) or Orange County Airport (SNA)
  • All planes and crews will return to base every day
  • The airline plans to be conservative with growth by design, and plans to lease A320s from Airblue; Airbahn will have two planes within 12 months
  • Airbahn’s A320s will have 174 seats each, in a one class configuration

In October 2020, the DOT 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.

Interestingly in a marketing video, Airbahn shows an A320 already painted in the carrier’s livery, with the registration code AP-EDA. Flight tracking software suggests that this plane is located in Istanbul, and hasn’t yet flown to the United States. I can’t tell for sure if the plane has actually been repainted, or if that’s just a rendering in the video (since the Airblue and Airbahn liveries aren’t that different).

https://twitter.com/raisinganchor/status/1374308193543815171

Airbahn is hiring staff in California

It looks like Airbahn is at least somewhat chugging along with launching operations. As noted by @IshrionA, Airbahn is hiring for quite a few positions, which also gives us a sense of what kind of destinations we could see the airline serve:

  • Airbahn is hiring for management roles in Irvine, so that’s where the carrier’s headquarters will be located
  • Airbahn is hiring for station supervisors in Oakland (OAK), Sacramento (SMF), and San Jose (SJC), so those are definitely airports the airline plans on serving
  • Airbahn is hiring for flight attendants and maintenance personnel in Ontario (ONT), so it seems likely that the airline could primarily be based there; while the carrier’s plan was to be based out of Long Beach or Orange County, those airports are slot restricted, which probably explains why Ontario is in the cards now

My thoughts on Airbahn

Details are very limited as of now about the airline. Airline executives aren’t saying a whole lot, other than suggesting that operations are launching soon. All we know is what’s in the DOT filing, and we can also piece together some details based on where the airline is hiring.

On the surface this airline seems quite legitimate, in the sense that it has actually filed with the DOT for permission to launch flights, and there’s someone with real airline experience behind it. It’s at least more legitimate than the likes of Avatar Airlines, Global Ghana Airlines, etc.

That being said, reading between the lines, it seems that the airline might initially operate flights from Ontario to Oakland, Sacramento, and San Jose (assuming plans haven’t changed). Those are all routes that are already served by Southwest. That seems like an absolute non-starter for launching a new carrier.

While the person behind the airline obviously has airline experience, if that’s his plan I’m not sure he quite has a nuanced enough understanding of the market in the United States. Compare that to Avelo Air, which is run by a former Allegiant Air and United Airlines executive, and Breeze Airways, run by the founder of JetBlue, Azul, etc.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this airline, but personally I’m not 100% convinced this will become a reality, at least not without a different plan.

Bottom line

Airbahn is an airline startup in the United States 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.

Based on where Airbahn is hiring, it would appear that the airline may initially be based in Ontario, and operate routes to Oakland, Sacramento, and San Jose, all of which are also operated by Southwest. Suffice to say that I’m skeptical about the viability of that model.

What do you think — will Airbahn become a reality?

(Featured image courtesy of Konstantin von Wedelstaedt)

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  1. Joe smo

    Here at the doubletree in Costa Mesa and the hotel is full of trainees for this start up they appear to be very wound up about their new company it is real they are starting their engines.

  2. Dale

    I plan to stick with Southwest as I am able to check two bags in the hold without additional charge and I am able to put one of my carry on items in the hold without any additional charges. I see nothing about any fees but all the really new airlines that have started up in the USA have fees.

  3. stogieguy7

    They need to offer a compelling reason to get someone to pass up WN on the same route and to fly them. Frankly, I'm not seeing it. WN's intra-California fares are reasonable, they have a loyalty program and an established reputation for excellent service - particularly on short flights. These guys need to rethink their service and to try to be more imaginative (like Avelo is). Otherwise, they won't last a year.

  4. Dan777

    Ziti,

    Read the article, there’s a direct connection to AirBlue, hence the picture.

  5. Steve

    Hoping they have a reciprocal agreement with Baltia Airlines...

  6. Wilhelm

    Yay! Another low cost bottom feeder airline…

  7. Adam Simmons

    In a saturated market, a new entrant can only succeed if it offers something different, be it on product (aircraft type, frequency, network, etc.), process (ease of booking, check-in, app, etc.) or price. Is there any sign of Airbahn doing any of these things?

  8. Zizi

    Picture on the header is for Airblue - a Pakistani airline.

  9. Creditian

    Airb0mb??
    That word is forbidden in the airport I think.

  10. ChuckMO

    With what slots at SNA/LGB? ONT seems their "best" bet, and that's iffy...but plausible.

  11. jaymanlb

    This would be very welcome to LGB since JetBlue exited and went to LAX. People who need to fly short hops within California that live in Long Beach and Orange County will pay a premium to travel from LGB or SNA rather than drive to LAX... LAX even without all of the construction horrors there now, is a nightmare to get in and out of. And, with Uber and Lyft pricing sometimes more than $125...

    This would be very welcome to LGB since JetBlue exited and went to LAX. People who need to fly short hops within California that live in Long Beach and Orange County will pay a premium to travel from LGB or SNA rather than drive to LAX... LAX even without all of the construction horrors there now, is a nightmare to get in and out of. And, with Uber and Lyft pricing sometimes more than $125 to go from Long Beach to LAX (26 miles!), its not worth it.

    The problem is for AirBahn... Southwest moved into LGB and has all of the available slots in the slot-restricted airport. Unless they plan to add regional jets CRJ700 sized, there are no more slots. Southwest took the jetBlue slots along with Hawaiian, American, and Delta. SNA is slot restricted too. And there is a lot of competition on these routes. What would be great is if they could come into LGB and fly to Seattle and Portland as @bhcompy suggests, since that is an important market that is missing now that JetBlue and Alaska have left LGB.

  12. bhcompy

    Given that JetBlue has basically exited much the local flight market(and LGB) with no apparent plans to restart most of their local routes or add American Airlines codesharing outside of the northeast(not that AA is worth flying on), I welcome a mid tier airport based regional carrier out of SNA or LGB.

    Hopefully this airline adds the PNW and a few more midtier airports to their list, as LAX sucks and JetBlue has basically...

    Given that JetBlue has basically exited much the local flight market(and LGB) with no apparent plans to restart most of their local routes or add American Airlines codesharing outside of the northeast(not that AA is worth flying on), I welcome a mid tier airport based regional carrier out of SNA or LGB.

    Hopefully this airline adds the PNW and a few more midtier airports to their list, as LAX sucks and JetBlue has basically ditched or severely curtailed SAN, PDX, SEA, ONT, SMF, etc. I don't need to go to JFK or BOS. I need to get to Portland, I don't need to deal with garbage traffic getting to LAX or the dumb waits at LAX, and Alaska's rates are usually non-competitive.

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Joe smo

Here at the doubletree in Costa Mesa and the hotel is full of trainees for this start up they appear to be very wound up about their new company it is real they are starting their engines.

Humbug

Perfect reply,

Dale

I plan to stick with Southwest as I am able to check two bags in the hold without additional charge and I am able to put one of my carry on items in the hold without any additional charges. I see nothing about any fees but all the really new airlines that have started up in the USA have fees.

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