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American Airlines Eyes Codeshare With Toronto Startup Connect Airlines

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American Airlines intends to enter into a codeshare agreement with a new airline startup, Connect Airlines, granting American Airlines access to Connect’s base at Toronto’s city-center airport, Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.

American Airlines and Connect Airlines struck an interline agreement in March 2021, which allows tickets from both carriers to be booked and placed on the same itinerary. The airlines now plan to formalize a codeshare agreement before Connect’s operations begin in the coming months, allowing Connect Airlines passengers to use miles on American Airlines flights through American’s AAdvantage loyalty program.

Connect Airlines highlighted its expectations of the codeshare in a Department of Transportation (DOT) filing, predicting greater yields and load factors on its routes, improving its income prediction for its first year of operations. Connect Airlines wants to provide services to Chicago and Philadelphia — two American Airlines hubs in the United States — from its base at Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport in order to feed into American Airlines’ network.

According to John Thomas, CEO of Connect Airlines parent firm Waltzing Matilda Aviation, “Our idea is how do we provide folks in Toronto more than just a flight to Chicago — or another point in the United States — how do we make this a one-stop connection into a large network.”

American Airlines, on the other hand, may target business travelers searching for a convenient and accessible choice to Toronto’s downtown area via Billy Bishop Airport rather than Toronto’s principal international hub, Pearson International Airport, which is busier but far 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 Billy Bishop base in Toronto to American’s John F. Kennedy International Airport hub in New York, as well as to airports in Boston and Baltimore. In addition, the airline will fly within the United States, transporting passengers from Boston to Baltimore and Philadelphia.

A New Beginning
Waltzing Matilda Aviation, based in Boston, hopes to get its U.S. Air Operating Certificate for Part 121 commercial operations by September 29, and to complete its proving runs by September 27. Currently, Connect Airlines’ parent business has FAA Part 135 operational status, allowing it to fly private charters but not regularly scheduled commercial flights.

Connect Airlines intends to lease two former FlyBe Bombardier Dash 8 Q-400 aircraft, each seating 74 passengers, from Chorus Aviation, with the first arriving in mid-September. In addition, by the second part of 2022, the airline plans to lease three more Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft.

Connect Airlines will compete on its flights with Porter Airlines, a Canadian airline that operates a similar transborder network and an extensive intra-Canada network from Billy Bishop Airport using Bombardier Dash 8 Q-400 aircraft. Both airlines could compete on Boston flights while serving similar airports in New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Connect Airlines, for example, intends to serve Chicago O’Hare Airport, whilst Porter Airlines serves Chicago Midway Airport.

Connect Airlines, which was announced in April, wants to target the “day-tripping” business traveler by offering transborder flights from Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport to cities in the Northeast and Midwest of the United States, complementing Porter Airlines’ offering.

Codeshares with American Airlines
If a codeshare agreement is reached, American Airlines will continue to fill holes in its network. Earlier this year, the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline expanded its alliances with Alaska Airlines for its west coast network and JetBlue for its Northeast network. Furthermore, the airline announced a new partnership with Chilean low-cost carrier JetSMART to expand its South American codeshare network.

However, due to Connect Airlines’ minuscule network and lack of domestic Canadian operations, 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.

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