OneJet's acquisition of Ultimate Air Shuttle parent could mean Ultimate's return to CVG
Together, the companies will serve 17+ cities
Liz Engel WCPO contributor
11:00 AM, May 2, 2018
HEBRON, Ky. -- OneJet, an upstart that has served the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport since 2016, has announced its acquisition of Ultimate JetCharters, the parent company of Ultimate Air Shuttle, and it's a move that should benefit local luxury and business travelers alike, officials said.
Think easier access, additional city pairs -- and the strong possibility of an Ultimate return to CVG.
Financial terms were not disclosed when the deal was announced Tuesday. But the acquisition came together quickly, said Ultimate Air Shuttle managing director Rick Pawlak. He said the companies have similar cultures and growth goals.
Ultimate JetCharters was founded 34 years ago, in 1984. It launched its first Ultimate Air Shuttle service between Cincinnati and New York City in 2009. OneJet, a Pittsburgh-based air transportation network founded in 2015, has experienced accelerated growth with a hefty financial backing.
"Over the years, Ultimate has been approached by several interested companies, and we always said no," Pawlak said. "But with OneJet, we are so much alike. With the capital investment that OneJet has available, and the experience and infrastructure that Ultimate has -- our reservation system for example, is one of a kind, and we built that from the ground up -- those strengths were quickly seen by leadership teams. By combining these two companies, we're going to have a very strong base for the future."
The Ultimate Air Shuttle brand will remain independent and will continue to operate its scheduled services to and from Lunken Airport, east of downtown Cincinnati, as well as private charters for corporate, casino and collegiate clients.
Ultimate will be integrated into OneJet's network during the course of the next month, with flights beginning on June 4. Together, the companies' networks will serve over 17 cities, including Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Albany, Buffalo, Hartford, West Palm Beach, Kansas City, New York (via Morristown, New Jersey), Chicago, Charlotte, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Louisville, Atlanta, Columbus and Raleigh-Durham.
Concurrently, OneJet will continue to accelerate the addition of 30-seat Embraer ERJ aircraft to its network throughout the course of 2018 -- the same fleet used by Ultimate. Pawlak said OneJet plans to add eight additional ERJ by the end of this year.
So expect new city pairs -- and soon.
OneJet said it could announce several new routes by the end of May as it makes various schedule and routing adjustments.
"The opportunity to integrate will further enhance the travel experience and service options for our collective customers, providing a wonderful platform for both organizations' continued growth," OneJet CEO Matthew Maguire said in a release.
OneJet first launched nonstop service from CVG to Pittsburgh in October 2016 using seven-seater Hawker jets. At the time, Maguire told WCPO.com that he expected the route would be profitable almost immediately. OneJet suspended flights in January as it added new equipment to its fleet. There's no word on when service would resume.
It's also too early to tell what destinations Ultimate and OneJet could add. Pawlak said they'll focus on expansion to the "eastern part of the United States," but Nashville has long been on his wish list. Both companies will continue to serve their niche: small- to medium-sized markets considered underserved.
"Through airline consolidations, a lot of those smaller markets have gone by the wayside, and it's very difficult -- if not impossible -- to get to some of these destinations," Pawlak said. "There's so much demand. That's the next phase of this acquisition; let's sit down and throw out our wish list and see what (need) we can fulfill immediately."
But expect an "almost definite" return of Ultimate to CVG. The charter most recently served Chicago-Midway and New York City-Morristown from its Northern Kentucky digs before it consolidated all operations to Lunken, roughly 20 miles away, in late 2016.
"There's only so much growth opportunity at Lunken," Pawlak said. "Combining the Ultimate model and the OneJet model, and if we grow the way we anticipate, we will utilize CVG again and continue service out of Lunken."