US charter operator Waltzing Matilda Aviation (MW, New Bedford) is forging ahead with plans to launch scheduled operations under the Connect Airlines (Bedford, MA) brand.

The operator has applied to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) for a Part 121 certificate to engage in scheduled passenger air transport. WMA already holds a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 135 on-demand air service license and commenced jet charter operations out of the Boston area in July 2015.

Trading as Connect Airlines, it plans to operate scheduled flights from as-yet unnamed major business centres in the US Northeast and Midwest to Toronto City Centre/Billy Bishop, Canada, using two DHC-8-Q400s. The aircraft are to be leased from Waltzing Matilda Airlines GP, LLC (WM Airlines GP, LLC), which is a wholly-owned subsidiary. More details of the aircraft have not been provided.

WMA has two subsidiaries: WM Airlines, LP, a Delaware limited partnership, and WM Airlines GP, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company. WM Airlines, LP was formed for the dual purposes of securing investment capital and selling and marketing various airline brands. WM Airlines, LP will acquire or lease the aircraft, which, in turn, it will lease or sublease them to WMA.

The applicant says it is in advanced discussions with major US air carriers to codeshare on its Billy Bishop Airport services over their US hubs, thus greatly enhancing the network connectivity to downtown Toronto.

According to its application, the venture will target a growing Toronto/US Northeast market, dominated by Canadian air carriers, which use Toronto Pearson, while downtown Billy Bishop is underserved in the transborder market. It was dominated by Canada’s Porter Airlines (PD, Toronto City Centre), but the carrier has not served any US destinations since March 2020 due to COVID-19. According to supporting documents, there are 30 viable US markets from Billy Bishop, but only four – Boston, New York Newark, Washington National, and Chicago O'Hare - are currently served.

Billy Bishop was unattractive to major US air carriers because the airport was restricted to turboprop aircraft and at present lacked US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pre-clearance facilities, WMA said. CBP pre-clearance had been approved for Billy Bishop and should be operational by the Spring of 2022, which would make the airport more competitive with Pearson International in the transborder market, opening up more convenient US airports, such as New York La Guardia and Washington National airports.

At present, all flights from Billy Bishop to the US are treated as international flights and are required to operate into international terminals, which restricts airports that can be used (La Guardia and Washington National only allow domestic flights). In contrast, passengers departing Pearson to the US to clear US Customs and Immigration at Pearson, so the flight and passengers are treated as domestic US arrivals into domestic terminals.

According to the company details presented to the DOT, WMA's 75% majority shareholder is Paula Vanderhorst, wife of Chief Executive Officer John Thomas, who owns the remaining 25%. As previously reported, Thomas served as Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Australia (VA, Brisbane Int'l) from September 2016 to June 2017.

For its Part 135 charter operations, WMA owns one Cessna CE-550-550, N324JT (msn 5500819), and leases one Cessna CE-560-560XL, N617CXB (msn 5605099).

The company was incorporated in 2008 to provide Part 91 flying for Thomas, who headed a global aviation consultancy, L.E.K. Consulting, in Boston at the time. In 2017, the company added aircraft management to its service.