While assemblymen, senators and other government types may prove regular customers of the new non-stop flights announced Monday between Buffalo and Albany, the local business community emerges as the driving force in convincing Pittsburgh-based OneJet Airlines to reintroduce flights to the state capital.
Not only will service include twice-daily flights between the two cities, travelers will also enjoy new, 30-passenger ERJ135 jets with extra leg room.
“The business community has been very responsive,” said Matt Maguire, OneJet CEO during morning ceremonies at Buffalo Niagara International Airport. “At one point, we had 20 people from the business community around a table with data to show why this would work.”
And Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, president of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, said her business group has long lobbied with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority for the 55-minute, gate-to-gate service absent from the Buffalo-Albany corridor for the past seven years.
“We told OneJet what we already knew — that in order to be successful we have to be able to get back and forth in a day,” she said. “Air service is economic development, and we thank the NFTA team for recognizing that.”
As a result, Maguire said travelers with business in the state capital who are used to a 4 1/2 hour trip on the Thruway can now look forward to a flight of less than an hour at prices beginning at $149 each way.
“The ability to do this in one hour and be productive en route will be tremendous,” he said.
Indeed, veteran Albany commuters like Assemblyman Robin L. Schimminger, D-Kenmore, hailed the innovation as important to government officials as well as trade groups, education officials and business people who can now travel back and forth in a day without connecting in another Northeast airport.
“It’s a pathway for people in Western New York to have greater access to their state capital,” he said.
Others with similar thoughts included Assemblywoman Monica Wallace, D-Lancaster, and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul of Buffalo.
“This allows us to attract business from other parts of the country and is all part of our economic development strategy,” Hochul said.
The Buffalo News reported in November that NFTA officials were negotiating with OneJet to reintroduce service to Albany in response to demand from local business and government officials. Non-stop service has been unavailable between the two cities since Pinnacle Airlines pulled out in 2010.
Maguire said OneJet, which specializes in serving small and medium-sized airports, will offer tickets beginning Jan. 9 for flights starting on Feb. 1. Fares will start at $149 each way, he said, with Buffalo departures at 7 and 8:20 a.m., and return flights departing from Albany at 4:50 and 6:10 p.m.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo hailed the new service in a press release, while revealing the carrier will also offer new service between Buffalo and Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina.
The Albany flights represent the latest service addition in Buffalo following last week’s announcement that Frontier Airlines has begun non-stop, low-fare service between Buffalo and the Florida cities of Fort Myers, Miami, Orlando and Tampa. Frontier also announced service to Denver beginning April 9