By Winston Shek
American Airlines Eyes Codeshare With Toronto Startup Connect Airlines
American Airlines plans to launch a codeshare with a new airline startup, Connect Airlines, allowing American Airlines to gain access to Connect’s base at Toronto’s city-center airport: Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
In March 2021, American Airlines and Connect Airlines signed an interline agreement, allowing tickets from both carriers to be booked and included on the same itinerary. The airlines now expect to finalize a codeshare agreement before the launch of Connect’s operations in the coming months, allowing Connect Airlines passengers to use miles on American Airlines flights via American’s AAdvantage loyalty program.
In a Department of Transportation (DOT) filing, Connect Airlines detailed its expectations of the codeshare, expecting higher yields and load factors on its routes, boosting its revenue forecast for its first year of operations. In order to feed into American Airlines’ network, Connect Airlines intends to operate services to Chicago and Philadelphia — two American Airlines hubs in the U.S. — from its base at Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport.
In a statement to AirlineWeekly, John Thomas, CEO of Connect Airlines parent company Waltzing Matilda Aviation said, “Our view is how do we give people in Toronto more than just a flight to Chicago — or some point in the U.S. — how do we make this a one-stop connection into a massive network.”
Conversely, American Airlines could target business travelers looking for a convenient and accessible option to Toronto’s downtown area via Billy Bishop Airport instead of Toronto’s primary international hub, Pearson International Airport, which is busier though much farther from the city.
In addition to flights to Chicago and Philadelphia, Connect Airlines filed its initial route network plans with the DOT in April, highlighting plans to fly from its Toronto’s Billy Bishop base to American’s New York John F. Kennedy International Airport hub as well as to airports in Boston and Baltimore. Furthermore, the airline will fly intra-U.S. routes, carrying passengers from Boston to Baltimore and Philadelphia.
To launch intra-U.S. routes, Boston-based Waltzing Matilda Aviation aims to receive its U.S. Air Operating Certificate for Part 121 commercial operations by Sept. 29, ending its proving runs by Sept. 27. Currently, the parent company of Connect Airlines holds FAA Part 135 operational authority, allowing it to fly private charters but not regularly scheduled commercial operations.
Connect Airlines plans to lease two former FlyBe Bombardier Dash 8 Q-400 aircraft from Chorus Aviation, seating 74 passengers, the first of which will arrive in mid-September. In addition, the airline intends to lease three more Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft by the second half of 2022.
On its flights, Connect Airlines will compete with Porter Airlines, a Canadian airline that flies similar transborder hops and an expansive intra-Canada network from Billy Bishop Airport using Bombardier Dash 8 Q-400 aircraft. Both airlines could go head-to-head on their Boston flights while serving similar airports in the vicinity of New York, Washington D.C. and Chicago. For example, Connect Airlines plans to service Chicago O’Hare, while Porter Airlines serves Chicago’s Midway Airport.
First announced in April, Connect Airlines aims to target the “day-tripping” business traveler, with transborder flights from Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport to Northeast and Midwest U.S. cities, complementing the offering of Porter Airlines.
If a codeshare agreement is reached, American Airlines is continuing its streak of strengthening gaps in its network. Earlier this year, the Fort-Worth, Texas-based airline boosted its partnerships with Alaska Airlines for its west coast network and JetBlue in the Northeast. In addition, the airline revealed a new venture with Chilean low-cost carrier JetSMART to improve its South American codeshare network.
However, codeshares between Delta Airlines and WestJet and United Airlines and Air Canada will ultimately provide much broader connectivity throughout Canada than a codeshare between Connect Airlines and American Airlines, due to Connect Airlines’ minuscule network and its lack of domestic Canadian operations.