Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen several new airline startups in the United States, including Avelo Airlines, Breeze Airways, and Aha!. There was another startup that claimed to have plans to launch operations soon, but that now seems much less likely to happen.
The basics of airline startup Airbahn
Airbahn was founded over four years ago (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 Airbus A320-family aircraft.
The carrier’s plan was to operate flights in the Western United States between mid-tier markets, initially from Southern California to Northern California, Nevada, and Western Canada. The intent was to operate one class Airbus A320s, and Airbahn even already had its first aircraft on the ground in Ontario (ONT), which was a 12 year old jet acquired from Airblue.
Well, Airbahn has just hit a major roadblock for launching operations, though this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, and one has to wonder what exactly the management team was thinking.
DOT revokes Airbahn’s transportation certificate
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has this week revoked Airbahn’s certificate, after the company sought a further extension to meet the DOT’s requirements. The DOT gave the following reasons for this decision:
- Airbahn has been in Phase 3 of FAA certification for over three years
- Airbahn isn’t close completing safety certifications
- Based on how long it has been, Airbahn employees already require recurrent training without the company having operated a single flight
As the filing explains:
More than two years have elapsed since the Department found the air carrier fit, and Airbahn has still not provided the information necessary to make its authority effective and commence its operations. While the Department is willing to work with applicants, where warranted, and allow additional time to file information, we cannot allow applications to remain pending indefinitely. Furthermore, processing and maintaining incomplete applications delay the Department’s ability to process applications from companies that have prepared complete filings and are prepared to complete the steps necessary to commence operations.
So while Airbahn could likely go through the whole process again, this is a major setback if the company actually did plan on launching operations. That being said, there’s a lot that’s very strange here:
- There is someone legitimate behind the airline who has run another airline, unlike some other “airline” startups
- At the same time, it hasn’t seemed to me like launching operations has been a priority for Airbahn, as the company has been moving at a glacial pace
- Yet oddly Airbahn has been hiring employees and even has an Airbus A320 parked in Ontario, so management must have on some level been serious about launching operations
- I could never really make sense of Airbahn’s business model to begin with, as the airline would be going head-to-head against other airlines in most markets, as SoCal is a pretty competitive airline market
It sounds like we shouldn’t expect Airbahn to launch operations anytime soon, as the DOT has revoked the carrier’s authority. It has been an exciting couple of years for airline startups in the United States, but it looks like that trend is ending with Airbahn.
I’m still not sure I get what was going on with Airbahn. If launching operations was a priority for Airbahn, the airline wouldn’t have had its certificate revoked, as it would have moved through phases of certification more quickly.
Yet the airline is clearly legitimate on some level, in the sense that the company had a plane at its base and was hiring. Very odd…
What do you make of this whole Airbahn situation?
(Tip of the hat to @IshrionA)