Agreement, which also includes purchase rights for 25 additional aircraft conversions, places Connect Airlines on trajectory to be the world’s first zero-emission passenger airline.
BENTONVILLE, Ark. — “We are building Connect Airlines from the ground up as a smarter, more sustainable travel option for North American travelers,” said John Thomas, CEO, Connect Airlines. “We have committed to being the world’s first true zero-emission airline and the only way to accomplish this in the near term is with hydrogen.” Today at the UP.Summit, an annual gathering of leaders in air transport innovation hosted by venture capital firm UP.Partners, Universal Hydrogen Co. and Connect Airlines, a division of Waltzing Matilda Aviation, announced that the airline has placed a firm order to convert 75 ATR 72-600 regional airplanes to hydrogen powertrains, with purchase rights for an additional 25 conversions. Deliveries will start in 2025. The agreement follows an initial letter of intent (LOI) between the companies announced in 2021.
“This order places Connect firmly in the vanguard of the march to get aviation on a path to meeting Paris Agreement emissions targets,” said Paul Eremenko, co-founder and CEO of Universal Hydrogen. “This march will very soon need to turn into a sprint if the industry has any hope of decarbonizing in time without having to curtail the growth in passenger volumes. We will need to convert most of the regional fleet in the 2020s and ensure that the new narrowbody aircraft built in the 2030s are hydrogen-powered—there is no other way to get there.”
In addition to a hydrogen conversion kit for the ATR 72-600, the most popular in-production regional turboprop on the market, Universal Hydrogen offers hydrogen fuel services to airports using a modular capsule technology that enables the transport and handling of hydrogen using the existing intermodal freight network and cargo handling equipment. This eliminates the need for costly and lengthy airport infrastructure upgrades and makes nearly every airport in the world hydrogen-ready. As part of today’s agreement, Universal Hydrogen will provide fuel services to the Connect fleet enabling operating unit economics that are equivalent or better than those of hydrocarbon-powered ATR 72s from the very first delivery in 2025.
“We see the partnership with Universal Hydrogen as the fastest path to zero-emission operation because they offer both an affordable retrofit solution for the existing airplane fleet, as well as a pragmatic approach to delivering hydrogen to any airport in our route network,” said Thomas. “With this technology and its economics, we easily anticipate our appetite growing to over 800 airplanes in this class to support the growth of our route network across North America.”
About Universal Hydrogen
Universal Hydrogen is making hydrogen-powered commercial flight a near-term reality. The company takes a flexible, scalable, and capital-light approach to hydrogen logistics by transporting it in modular capsules over the existing freight network from green production sites directly to the airplane anywhere in the world. The company is targeting regional and narrowbody/single aisle airplanes as the near-term and most impactful decarbonization opportunities. Universal Hydrogen is also working to certify a powertrain conversion kit to retrofit existing regional aircraft to fly on hydrogen.
About Waltzing Matilda Aviation / Connect Airlines
WMA is a Boston based FAA Part 135 jet charter operator (Certificate number 6WZA614N) in the certification process to add FAA Part 121 scheduled and non-scheduled services to its Air Operators Certificate under the Connect Airlines brand. WMA identified the need for a “smarter airline” and brought together aviation leaders and enthusiasts with over 150 years’ experience who share a common passion – to work and fly smarter. With the planes we fly, the technology we use, and the operations we run, Connect Airlines will deliver a quieter, cleaner, and healthier travel experience. Connect Airlines, the future of smarter, greener travel.
Hosted by mobility investment firm UP.Partners, the UP.Summit has become known as the “Davos of Mobility”. UP.Summit is an invitation-only gathering of the world’s most innovative minds working together to Transform the Moving World. Leaders of the most impactful companies moving people and goods gather each year with the goal of accelerating progress toward cleaner, faster, safer, and lower cost mobility solutions on the ground, in the air, over the oceans, and in space. The UP.Summit was founded in 2017 and is jointly organized by UP.Partners, Tom and Steuart Walton, and Ross Perot Jr, rotating between Bentonville, AR and Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX each year.
Transportation is the underlying fabric of society. With a mission of Transforming the Moving World, UP.Partners invests in the pioneering entrepreneurs who are creating technologies that help move people and goods cleaner, faster, safer, and lower cost – on the ground, in the air, over the oceans, and in space. UP.Partners joins some of the world’s most innovative investors and companies including Alaska Airlines, ARK Invest, and Woven Capital, the investment arm of Toyota subsidiary Woven Planet Group. UP.Summit convenes the mobility community’s brightest minds each year to help humanity go UP. Together, the UP community is transforming the moving world. For more information, visit UP.Partners or follow on Twitter @UpPartnersVC or LinkedIn.