OneJet leans heavily on business travelers as it begins service from CVG to Pittsburgh on Wednesday

Posted at 11:00 AM, Oct 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-19 13:21:22-04

HEBRON, Ky. -- OneJet's launch at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is on pace to be one the startup's best yet, although without buy in from the local business community, it could be a one-sided success.

OneJet, founded in 2015, will pilot new nonstop service from CVG to a single market -- Pittsburgh -- starting Wednesday. It's a key business link and fills a void left after Delta Airlines ceased flights between the two cities last year.

That's OneJet's wheelhouse -- airports that were once major hubs for legacy carriers but that have seen a reduction in the number of nonstop flights. So far, OneJet CEO Matt Maguire said, demand for this route has been strong. OneJet delayed its initial August start date because it added a second daily flight to the route, a move that necessitated additional crew and equipment resources. Now Cincinnati-based business customers can make day trips to the Steel City and back. Flights depart CVG at 8:50 a.m. and return at 5:30 p.m. via Gate A4.

"We expect this route to be profitable for us almost from day one," Maguire told WCPO. "For our first full week of service next week, loads are already over 60 percent, which is phenomenal, and that's with the twice daily service. With the bookings we're seeing so far, it is on track to be one of our best (launches) yet."

Matt Maguire

But further growth -- meaning flights to additional cities -- hinges heavily on support from the Tri-State business community. OneJet, which flies a seven-seat Hawker 400 light jet, targets corporate travelers. Amenities include TSA Pre access, high-speed Internet access and first-class-style seating.

Whether those conversations have started locally, Maguire didn't say. OneJet considers Pittsburgh a focus city/hub; the CVG route was specifically added to meet the needs of PNC Bank there. And Pittsburgh officials, earlier this year, announced a $2.5 million private/public commitment to the airline. In that market, OneJet has contracts with other large corporate customers like FedEx and Bayer.

"As we begin service … we'll begin to interact with Cincinnati-based companies," Maguire said. "It's about getting our toes in the water. Certainly, we’ll want to see some corporate uptick. But ultimately, it's real simple for us (to sell). Right now, to get to Pittsburgh, it's a four- to five-hour connection. This will be a 45-minute nonstop flight. Bookings for the first two or three months will dictate how we move further in Cincinnati."

If OneJet does expand at CVG, it will likely be a new city pair. The airline mainly targets small and mid-sized markets; routes that span 300 to 800 miles. But it also aims for exclusivity. "We only enter markets where we'll have the only nonstop service," Maguire said.

Besides Cincinnati, OneJet only flies to Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Louisville and Hartford, Connecticut, from Pittsburgh. At CVG, Delta already serves Hartford and Milwaukee nonstop. The latter two are in too close proximity.

Cities like Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Richmond, Virginia, may be better fits. They were also cut from CVG's destinations by Delta last year.

OneJet is CVG's ninth carrier to offer passenger service.

"We're looking forward to getting them started. It gives us another dot on the map and puts Pittsburgh back in our network," said Bobby Spann, CVG's vice president of external affairs. Added CEO Candace McGraw, "Pittsburgh is a very important business market, and we're excited that OneJet is now providing service."