Department Of Transportation Decision Delay Holds Up Connect Airlines

The company behind Massachusetts-based startup Connect Airlines is pushing the Department of Transportation (DOT) to issue an Order to Show Cause. The order is needed before the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will allow Connect Airlines to kickstart its proving runs and finish its certification process.

Connect Airlines wants to fly scheduled passenger flights between Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport and Midwest and Northeast US cities using DeHavilland Q-400 aircraft. The company behind Connect Airlines is Waltzing Matilda Aviation (WMA), a long-established air charter and aircraft management business. WMA’s CEO is John Thomas, a Wagga boy made good who has worked in aviation since the 1970s, including in senior roles for some big-name airlines.


Connect Airlines should not be confused with Connect Airways – an ill-fated and short-lived consortium cooked up by Virgin Atlantic and Irish wet lease specialist airline Stobart Air to buy British regional airline Flybe.

Connect Airlines plans to fly Dash 8-400s between Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport and several US airports. Photo: Connect Airlines

Connect Airlines wants a decision from the Department of Transportation

Last year, WMA made public its plans to launch Connect Airlines, sparking a flurry of interest. Since then, aside from weathering COVID, the company has been jumping through the regulatory hoops to get Connect Airlines flying. But it now appears their patience with bureaucracy is wearing a little thin.

In an April 20 letter to Annie Petsonk, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs at the DOT, Connect Airlines legal counsel, J. Parker Erkmann, asked for some speedier decision-making out of DC.

The time has come for the Department to make its decision,” his letter reads. “The DOT’s issuance of an Order to Show Cause tentatively approving WMA’s economic authority is necessary before the FAA will allow Connect to commence its proving runs and complete the certification process, and the FAA and its certification team is, and has been for at least the past two weeks, standing ready to commence these proving runs.”

Connect Airlines would like a decision and answer from the Department of Transportation sooner rather than later. Photo: Connect Airlines

Connect Airlines has made progress in the certification process

The letter notes WMA has made significant progress toward achieving its certification, including nearly completing the FAA’s Part 121 certification process. Mr Erkmann notes WMA responded to concerns previously raised by the Air Line Pilots Association, the Allied Pilots Association, and Southwest Pilots Association, by committing to only recruit US-based pilots for its scheduled services and base those pilots in the US. Consequently, those pilot associations withdrew their objections.

“Following a thorough public comment period, WMA has answered all outstanding questions and meets the standards for certification,” WMA’s legal counsel writes. “WMA is ready to get to work.”

As airline travel in North American rebounds, Connect Airlines sees more opportunity than ever for its business model. They say this is especially so with major US airlines and their regional partners cutting service to small markets and essential air service routes. WMA notes many of their planned routes between Billy Bishop Airport and US hub airports will crack open a current monopoly situation. Spinning it as a plus for bigger airlines, WMA says Connect Airlines will provide handy feeder services into those big airports for big carriers.

“Connect’s operating model of building scale at US large hub airports will allow Connect to profitably add service to smaller, regional airports and potentially even essential air service markets that have recently lost service from those large hubs, such as Eau Claire, Wisconsin or Decatur, Illinois from Chicago O’Hare,” added Mr Erkmann. “However, none of these benefits can be achieved unless the Department acts promptly to grant WMA’s applications. The Department should do so without further delay.”

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