Connect Airlines: North America’s Odd New Airline

Filed Under: Other Airlines

While it might seem like a strange time to start a new airline, we’re seeing a couple of great new airline startups in the US, include Avelo Airlines and Breeze Airways. These airlines have unique value propositions targeting leisure travelers, and will serve markets that weren’t previously served before.

Well, they’re not the only airline startups in North America — Connect Airlines is another new concept that has just been revealed, but unlike the others, this one leaves me scratching my head.

The basics of Connect Airlines

Connect Airlines is a new North American airline that has just been announced, with plans to launch this year:

  • The airline intends to launch operations in October 2021
  • The airline intends to connect Toronto Billy Bishop City Airport with airports in the US Northeast and Midwest
  • The airline will use Q400 turboprop aircraft for these routes, which will be acquired from Flybe, the UK airline that went out of business last year (the name of the airline is a funny coincidence, or something — Connect Airways was the name of the consortium that was going to save Flybe, and now Connect Airlines will launch, which is an unrelated airline that will take over Flybe’s planes)

Toronto Billy Bishop City Airport

Who is behind Connect Airlines?

Connect Airlines is a new concept from Waltzing Matilda Aviation (WMA), which is a Boston-based FAA Part 135 jet charter operator that has now started the process of applying for an FAA Part 121 scheduled services air operators certificate. And yes, this is apparently where the company got its name.

Interestingly this will be a US airline that will have its only hub in Canada, and the airline will hire pilots and flight attendants based in Toronto.

The CEO of Waltzing Matilda Aviation is John Thomas, who has been in the aviation industry for 35 years, and who is a former executive at Virgin Australia. As Thomas describes the plans for this airline:

“We are passionate about how aviation brings people, cultures and business together. Especially in these challenging times, we are committed to delivering the world’s most rewarding premium travel experience with safety, service, convenience and reliability.”

Does this business model sound familiar?

Look, I’ve gotta say, Connect Airlines has a really smart business model. I can’t believe no one has ever thought of the idea of using Toronto Billy Bishop City Airport as a hub for transborder flights with turboprop aircraft, all while offering a premium experience.

Oh wait, that’s exactly what Porter Airlines’ business model is. The airline operates out of the same airport, with the same planes, to the same destinations, offering the same kind of experience.

Now, in fairness, Porter Airlines suspended operations in March 2020 due to travel restrictions. Is Connect Airlines counting on Porter Airlines going out of business, or does the airline think that there’s room in the market for a second airline to offer exactly the same business model?

Porter Airlines Q400 cabin

Is this the time to start a business airline?

Let’s pretend for a moment that the border between the US and Canada reopens, and let’s even forget about Porter Airlines for a moment. Virtually all airline startups are leisure oriented nowadays. Connect Airlines isn’t — rather the airline is targeting “day-tripping business travelers” between the US and Canada. Maybe I just have a different take, but I don’t see the “day-tripping business traveler” segment returning to pre-coronavirus levels anytime soon.

That seems like a real uphill battle to me. Never mind the fact that Toronto Billy Bishop City Airport is slot restricted, so the airline won’t even be able to compete with Porter’s full network, even if it wanted to.

Bottom line

Connect Airlines is a new airline startup that hopes to launch in October 2021, operating flights between Toronto Billy Bishop City Airport and points in the US with Q400 aircraft.

Best I can tell, the airline hopes to essentially replicate Porter Airlines’ business model, hoping to capture the “day-tripping business traveler” market, which is questionable, to put it mildly.

Color me confused…

What do you make of Connect Airlines?

  1. I’ve flown Porter several times. The convenience of Bishop is fantastic compared to Pearson. But flying on the Dash is tiresome for anything longer than an hour, at least to me. And on the DC & Chicago routes it was longer. That plane is built for Seattle-Portland runs like Horizon used for years.

    I remember when Porter introduced flights to Orlando on half-full planes so they could carry enough fuel. That would’ve been a non-starter for me.

    Porter set things up to make Bishop feel like an all business class experience. To make you forget about the onboard experience I assume.

  2. Are they banking on Porter losing their slots? If not, I don’t see any point in this airline.

  3. Traveling with a kid I have taken a couple weekend trips to places where I can get away with stroller only / no carseat. LHR, MUC are great for this. Always wanted to do BOS YTZ and try out the tunnel to the city, of course don’t really care who operates it.

  4. > airports in the US Northeast and Midwest

    I think the Midwest is the selling point. YTZ used to only have AC flights to YUL and PD to as south as MYR (iirc, or FLL) and as west as MDW. I wonder if Connect will mainly focus on other destinations in the midwest. As a Toronto native, I’d welcome any business to YTZ; so much easier to get from / to compared to YYZ.

  5. If you´re flying into Toronto and can use Billy Bishop instead of YYZ, by all means… do it. The airport is a gem and a breeze to go through and right in the middle of where everyone is.

  6. Who knows. Maybe? Porter operates (operated?) probably 3/5 or more of it’s scheduled capacity domestically within Canada, and had a fair bit of connecting traffic over YTZ. Can a US based point to point operator make a go of it? I guess we may see.

  7. AC has pulled out of several crossborder routes into YYZ over the years (even before COVID) as they rationalize their fleet away from 19 seat Beech and 37 seat DHC (and tbh 50 seat CRJ). Porter is a delightful experience, and some combination of feeding MKE/ORD/GRR/DTW/CLE/CMH/CVG/IND/PIT/MDT/MHT/BTV/BWI into Porter YTZ/YUL/YOW etc might give them some opportunities.

  8. “Connect Airlines is a new concept from Waltzing Matilda Aviation (WMA), which is a Boston-based FAA Part 135 jet charter operator that has now started the process of applying for an FAA Part 121 scheduled services air operators certificate. And yes, this is apparently where the company got its name.”

    The last sentence doesn’t make sense. What exactly is where the company got its name? I didn’t find “connect” in that link…

    Or am I off base and you meant to say “Waltzing Matilda Aviation got its name from an Australian song”?

  9. Don’t know if this is a scam or someone throwing away good money? Waltzing Matilda with only 2 Slowtation jets (Cessna Citation) which is a very small charter company, starting a trans border airline. Many hurdles from hiring employees, getting operating and maintenance certificates, setting up systems and logistics during a pandemic and YTZ doesn’t even have American customs and border pre clearance.

  10. Don’t know that either this new airbus will be comforting or not. Because when I travel the main thing that I prioritize is the comfort level. Q400 will be a good addition.

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