The US Department of Transportation has rejected the request by Californian start-up AirBahn (ARB, Ontario) to extend its certificate of public necessity beyond April 30, 2022, as the carrier has not made any meaningful progress with its FAA air carrier certification.

The decision resets AirBahn's launch preparations as it will now have to restart its DOT recertification from scratch.

"While the Department is willing to work with applicants, where warranted, and allow additional time to file information, we cannot allow applications to remain pending indefinitely. Furthermore, processing and maintaining incomplete applications delay the Department's ability to process applications from companies that have prepared complete filings and are prepared to complete the steps necessary to commence operations," the regulator said.

AirBahn originally received the DOT certificate of public convenience for interstate and foreign scheduled passenger air transportation in October 2020. The authority gave the start-up a year to secure its air carrier certificate and launch operations. After two requests, the validity of the certificate was extended through the end of April 2022 as the start-up argued it was working through the FAA process and inching towards launch.

In early April, AirBahn requested another extension through the end of August, which was denied.

"Based on discussions with the FAA, it does not appear as though AirBahn is close to obtaining the safety certification it needs to conduct operations. According to the FAA, the air carrier has been in Phase 3 (Design Assessment) of the FAA's certification process for over three years and on its 10th manual submission for FAA review," the DOT said.

The regulator pointed out that the start-up has undergone frequent personnel changes, while its pilots and cabin crew now require recurrent training just to complete certification.

The DOT's decision was issued on May 17, after the current certificate lapsed at the end of April.

AirBahn is a sister carrier of Pakistan's AirBlue (PA, Karachi Int'l) which is backed by the Choudhary family. It planned to operate a fleet of A320s on intra-Californian routes, targeting "value-conscious" travellers, as explained to ch-aviation by Executive Vice-President Scott Hall in an interview earlier this year. It took its first A320-200, N786PB (msn 3974) in November 2021. The aircraft remains parked at Ontario airport.

AirBahn did not respond to ch-aviation's request for comment.