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Flybe Dash 8s stored in Limburg, Netherlands at Maastricht Aachen Airport. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fabian Behr)

Connect Airlines Plans To Reconnect Canada – United States

In the wake of the Air Canada-Air Transat merger termination, the business industry of Canada might just get an additional competitor to add to the mix. The Toronto-based firm, calling itself Connect Airlines, targets a late 2021 launch date and wants to lure in business travelers as they make their way back to aircraft in post-pandemic Canada.

Connect Airlines would be the second company formed by John Thomas, an Australian who as already created a business jet firm in the United States called Waltzing Matilda Aviation. Waltzing Matilda is based in Boston and uses Cessna Citations for clients. John Thomas believes that the market is right for a new Canadian firm that can contest business routes between Canada’s Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto and the northeastern and midwestern United States.

The airline plans to take hold of ex-Flybe Dash 8 aircraft that have been stationary in the United Kingdom since the airline’s collapse in March 2020. Flybe had operated 54 Dash 8’s during its time, of which five models are expected to join the new Canadian airline by the end of the year. Connect Airlines noted that these airframes will be repositioned across the Atlantic this week and will be taken over once on the ground in Canada.

For Connect Airlines, the company will go head-to-head with fellow Dash 8 operator Porter Airlines at Billy Bishop Airport in downtown Toronto. Porter has had operations to the United States suspended since 2020, but the route map for the carrier existed of flights to Chicago-Midway, Newark, Washington-Dulles, Boston and seasonally to Myrtle Beach. Domestically, Porter operates flights to 15 Canadian destinations alongside flag-carrier Air Canada’s service to Montreal-Trudeau.

Specific destinations for the airline have yet to be announced, but a firm strategy around Toronto-Billy Bishop and the United States. The key routes will see flights allow business passengers to book a morning departure and return that same evening.

The aircraft of choice, the Bombardier Dash 8, has had a strong impact with Canadian airlines and has been a common choice for smaller hop flights around the Canadian environment. Of the top five Dash 8-Q400 operators, Canadian airlines take three slots. WestJet’s regional branch WestJet Encore operates a fleet of 47 Q400s while Jazz Air and Porter follow behind at 44 and 29, respectively. Only Alaska Airlines’ regional arm, Horizon Air, and QantasLink compete in size with 47 and 31 models each. Domestic companies Canadian North, Voyageur Airways, North Cariboo Air, and Air Inuit also operate the Dash 8 only with smaller variations of the Bombardier product.

The airline is very much feeling out the current COVID-19 environment, not wanting to rush into a market that is still slow to restart or closed border situation with the United States as the pandemic ticks over into year two. The airline will continue to analyze the market and determine the best window to make a move to get airborne but anticipates right now that a fall 2021 start date will provide the best-case scenario as the markets reopen.

Ian McMurtry
Ian McMurtry
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