US's Waltzing Matilda reveals initial network plans
Waltzing Matilda Aviation (New Bedford) has announced the city pairs it plans to serve from the US North-East from October 2021 flying under the Connect Airlines brand using two DHC-8-Q400s. The carrier plans to fly from Philadelphia Int’l, Chicago O’Hare, Boston, New York JFK, and Baltimore Thurgood Marshall to Toronto City Centre, Canada, as well as schedules between Philadelphia and Boston, and Boston and Baltimore. This is according to an April 28, 2021, amendment to its April 1, 2021, application to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) for a Part 121 scheduled passenger service certification
According to supporting documents, Connect Airlines will subsequently expand its US domestic network in the North East to routes less than 400 miles (644 km) from Toronto. Discussions are also underway with US carriers about commercial/code-share deals, it says. On the fleet plans, WMA says it has secured two Q400s for the launch and is negotiating to add three more within six months or by early 2022, limiting capacity and focusing on markets with the highest demand resulting in higher returns.
As previously reported, the aircraft are to be leased from Waltzing Matilda Airlines GP, LLC (WM Airlines GP, LLC), which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of WMA. The company says it is in discussions with airport operators on securing landing slots. Connect Airlines stands to benefits from the collapse of flybe. (BE, Exeter) and resulting flooding of the Q400 market, WMA says.
The basis of its business plan is that Toronto City Centre airport, also known as Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, is more attractive to business travellers than Toronto Pearson, allowing for a total trip time that is 20%-30% faster, creating a premium pricing opportunity. Connect Airlines plans to tap into daily connecting traffic from the US to Toronto with a superior product. Annual one-way connections between Toronto and the US in 2019 numbered 948,414.
WMA says services from Pearson are unlikely to come back to pre-COVID levels for a significant period, making Toronto City Centre’s convenience factor even more compelling. A USD10 million investment, to be raised in two tranches, is required to launch Connect Airlines and bridge it to profitability. Cash reserves at launch will be able to sustain expected growth even if fundraising falls 50% short.
The two-year business plan assumes modest passenger growth of 119,000 passengers by 3Q21. Projections are for Connect Airlines to be profitable in its first year and to generate 15% net margins by the second year of operations. WMA already holds a Part 135 on-demand air service license and commenced jet charter operations out of the Boston area in July 2015.
It owns one Cessna CE-550-550, N324JT (msn 5500819), and leases one Cessna CE-560-560XL, N617CXB (msn 5605099) for its charter operations. WMA’s is owned by former Virgin Australia (VA, Brisbane Int’l) Chief Executive Officer, John Thomas (25%), and his wife, Paula Vanderhorst (75%). The company has two subsidiaries: WM Airlines, LP, a Delaware limited partnership, and WM Airlines GP, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company.
More details of the corporate structure reveal that:
- WM Aviation LLC will operate all aircraft, employ all staff, and cover all costs.
- WM Airlines LP will lease and own all aircraft and sublease to WM Aviation LLC which will have operational control over the aircraft.
WM Airlines LP will also raise equity and debt financing to fund the airline’s operations.
- Connect Airlines will be the selling and marketing agent (with its own website) for WM Aviation’s Part 121 operations.
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