Airline service between Buffalo and Albany ended more than seven years ago, and since then travelers to the state capital have endured long cross-state trip via the Thruway or Amtrak.
That may be about to change.
OneJet Airlines says it is weighing the possibility of restoring air service between the two cities in the near future, confirming reports from three sources that the company has been performing due diligence investigations within the local business community.
“Flight options in the area are under strong consideration, but no service announcement has been finalized,” a OneJet spokeswoman said.
The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which operates Buffalo Niagara International Airport, indicates it is looking to fill the Buffalo-Albany gap in its service.
“We’ve been diligently marketing direct service to Albany for some time, but we can’t confirm anything at this time,” spokeswoman Helen Tederous said.
Still, the sources say the Pittsburgh-based airline that specializes in connections between small and medium airports has been gauging business community interest for months. None of those interviewed predict the frequency or cost of any new flights, but some of those involved call its start “very, very close.”
OneJet’s website indicates the airline specializes in nonstop travel “at relatively low cost.” Much of its service involves executive type jets that typically seat eight passengers, but one source said the company may consider using larger aircraft for its upstate service.
The return of travel miles above the Thruway would mark the first such service since Pinnacle Airlines’ Colgan Air unit pulled out in 2010. Commutair ended its service for Continental Airlines in 2007.
Since then, regular Albany commuters like Assemblyman Robin L. Schimminger, D-Kenmore, say they are forced onto roundabout routes if they want to reach Albany without the 4 1/2 hour drive or slightly longer train trip. And while many state legislators and others with capital city business drive, he prefers flying, even if current operators route him through Washington.
“If you’re driving, you sit there with your hands behind the wheel of a car,” he said. “You can’t read, you can’t do work. You’re really limited in the multi-tasking that you can do.”
The assemblyman has been traveling back and forth to Albany for more than 40 years, and even though service has varied in quality over that time, flight options were always available until 2010, he said.
“I remember fondly those days of multiple, good-sized planes that flew regularly between the state capital and the second largest city in the state,” he said. “The absence of non-stop, direct flights just doesn’t add up.”
Other business sources say they are enthused about the prospect of quick flights between the two cities located 280 miles apart, especially since round trips by car or rail makes for a long day. Flights would also preclude the expense of staying overnight.
“The business community has been approached and validated the need for this service,” said one of those quizzed by OneJet who asked not to be identified. “Everyone drives now, so there’s a compelling case for it.
“They are asking for commitments,” the source added. “This is a big deal, because the last time we had service it involved propeller planes that often canceled in winter.”
OneJet’s website indicates it opened its first base in Pittsburgh in 2016 with two daily flights. The airline now offers more than 180 weekly flights to and from Pittsburgh, with weekday flights to Albany, Cincinnati, Hartford, Indianapolis, Louisville, Milwaukee, Providence and Richmond.