Airbahn: New SoCal-Based US Airline Startup

Airbahn: New SoCal-Based US Airline Startup

13

We’ve seen three airline startups launch in the United States in recent months — Avelo Airlines, Breeze Airways, and Aha! — and it looks like a fourth airline could be launching soon. I first wrote about this airline about 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 details 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.

Airbahn takes delivery of its first Airbus A320

As noted by @IshrionA, Airbahn has just taken delivery of its first Airbus A320 in the United States. Specifically, the plane has the registration code N786PB. On November 20 the plane flew from Istanbul (ISL) to Keflavik (KEF) to Bangor (BGR), and on November 21 the plane flew from Bangor (BGR) to Ontario (ONT).

This first plane is 12 years old, as it initially entered service in July 2009. This plane used to have the registration code AP-EDA, as it used to fly for Airblue. The plane flew from Karachi to Istanbul on November 30, 2020, and spent almost a year in Istanbul being prepared to fly for Airbahn.

Airbahn’s first Airbus A320

Airbahn is hiring staff in California

Not only has Airbahn now taken delivery of its first plane in the United States, but the airline is also 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 still 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, the airline has already taken delivery of a plane, 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.

It looks like this airline will become a reality, though I just don’t see how the current plan will gain any traction.

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. The first of those planes has just been flown to the United States, and is painted in full Airbahn livery.

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 business model.

What do you think — will Airbahn become a reality?

Conversations (13)
The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. David Guest

    Hilarious. What a name.

  2. Jo Guest

    What about Burbank?!! In the core of LA and already the home of a successful low cost carrier. Shouldn’t it be a no brainer to start there instead of way out in Ontario, CA??!

  3. bhcompy Gold

    "Those are all routes that are already served by Southwest. That seems like an absolute non-starter for launching a new carrier."

    JetBlue refuses to restore most of their west coast service, and Alaska charges way too much money, so if they can get up and down the coast from San Diego to Seattle and points in between at a reasonable price, they'll fill those planes up. Not everyone likes Southwest and their cattle car mentality, not their lack of leg space.

  4. Unhoeflich New Member

    What's with the name? Why not to go all the way and make it Luftbahn? Or maybe Bahnhansa.

    1. Leigh Guest

      Funny and I agree!! I wonder if their clientele will know the origin/meaning of “bhan”.

      As for the business plan, seems pretty weak based on current plans (that we know of).

  5. Abey Guest

    Isn’t there a law against foreign ownership for US carriers ?

    1. vespajet Guest

      Foreign ownership of a US airline is limited to 25% and up to 33% of the board of directors can be non-US citizens. But since Tariq Chaudhry is an American citizen, that doesn't apply in regards to Airbahn. If there were any issues in regards to the proposed airline and foreign ownership, we would have heard about it by now.

  6. Niko_jas Guest

    @lucky
    Talking of new airlines what are your thoughts on Flyv? Radical new business model, what could go wrong?!

  7. Izz Guest

    Great to see more competition!

    I will say re Ontario being chosen, it probably also has to do with the fact that Ontario and the Inland Empire is booming now. Lots of people have moved from LA during the last year.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      As I’ve said before, I love the local civic boosters on OMAAT after any new scheduling news!

      ONT was chosen because relative to other SoCal airports it’s CHEAP, and not slot constrained (as Ben noted). Those two things are obviously correlated.

      I’m also sure that never is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day. But that’s also irrelevant to this decision.

    2. Tony Guest

      It’s great to see a new airline in these crazy times. I agree there’s already a lot of competition in the West Coast market. That being said, I foresee this company getting started as a charter airline or as a 3rd party contractor for other airlines.

    3. BenjaminGuttery New Member

      Is it just me, or does this seem like a copy of "OneWorld's" logo and colors? Seems like a knockoff to me.

    4. AJO Guest

      The stars remind me of Ansett Australia (yes, I'm getting old).

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Never In Doubt Guest

As I’ve said before, I love the local civic boosters on OMAAT after any new scheduling news! ONT was chosen because relative to other SoCal airports it’s CHEAP, and not slot constrained (as Ben noted). Those two things are obviously correlated. I’m also sure that never is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day. But that’s also irrelevant to this decision.

1
David Guest

Hilarious. What a name.

0
vespajet Guest

Foreign ownership of a US airline is limited to 25% and up to 33% of the board of directors can be non-US citizens. But since Tariq Chaudhry is an American citizen, that doesn't apply in regards to Airbahn. If there were any issues in regards to the proposed airline and foreign ownership, we would have heard about it by now.

0
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
4,523,713 Miles Traveled

25,807,500 Words Written

28,675 Posts Published

Keep Exploring OMAAT