With assist from investors, OneJet intensifies focus on Pittsburgh with addition of routes
February 11, 2016 11:14 PM
OneJet will add a nonstop route to Hartford.
By Mark Belko / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For OneJet, it’s all about business. And that is what has prompted the Indianapolis-based regional airline to make a major investment at Pittsburgh International Airport.
The carrier will designate Pittsburgh a focus city, adding five nonstop destinations and at least 40 employees as part of a major expansion at the airport — its largest to date in any community.
That expansion, announced Thursday, will be on top of the service the airline now offers to Indianapolis and Milwaukee. It will start with the launch of a twice-daily nonstop flight to Hartford, Conn., on May 9, replacing service lost on Nov. 4 when Trans States Airlines, a partner of American Airlines, dropped the route.
The carrier plans to add four other destinations in the second quarter. While OneJet did not announce those, one that’s “at the top of the list,” said CEO Matthew Maguire, is Memphis, which currently is not served nonstop from Pittsburgh.
Other possibilities include Kansas City, St. Louis and Richmond, Va., he said. While the airline does not serve any of those markets now, it is planning to add 12 destinations and more focus cities this year. Mr. Maguire estimated Pittsburgh could end up with OneJet service to 15 or 20 destinations.
Expanding in Pittsburgh was “not a gamble,” Mr. Maguire said, noting OneJet’s seven-seat Hawker 400 jets are usually more than 80 percent filled on the flights to Indianapolis and Milwaukee. In addition, there has been “tremendous buy-in” by the local business community in embracing the service, he noted.
“This is a very calculated investment in Pittsburgh,” he said. “We see great potential here.”
With the focus city designation and each of the new routes, the airline will add a jet, four to five pilots, two mechanics, and another worker.
The local expansion, Mr. Maguire said, represents the largest investment to date that OneJet has made in a community. It came with the help of two prominent men with local ties — former PNC CEO Jim Rohr and Thomas Tull, the Legendary Entertainment CEO and part Steelers football team owner who owns property here.
Mr. Maguire acknowledged both men made the investment with the goal of bringing more service to Pittsburgh. He declined to disclose the amount of the investment.
Chris Hoke, the former Steeler who represented the two men at Thursday’s news conference, said they “are extremely interested in the growth of Western Pennsylvania and this is just one piece of that puzzle.”
“They are interested in supporting Pittsburgh air service and saw an opportunity to invest in an airline that’s making an investment in Pittsburgh,” added Christina Cassotis, Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO. “The market stands on its own and they want to be part of the future success.”
The OneJet expansion represents the latest coup for the airport, which has added 21 new routes in the last 13 months.
In January, Frontier Airlines, which hadn’t flown from Pittsburgh since 2012, announced it was touching down again with service to five cities — Denver, Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla. — starting in mid-June. Allegiant Air has designated Pittsburgh a base of operations, bringing with it up to 40 jobs and a permanently-based 156-seat Airbus A319 aircraft.
For Michael Baker International, the OneJet expansion is “certainly of great interest to us,” said Steve Hammel, vice president of business development. The firm has 80 offices in the U.S., including one in Rocky Hill, Conn., outside of Hartford, and 10 overseas.
Last year, it spent $7.5 million on air travel, including $1 million from Pittsburgh. “It’s wonderful to have new travel options and better connections to our corporate offices and our clients,” he said.
The business-oriented OneJet got off the ground last March, targeting small to medium-sized markets that other airlines had abandoned. Mr. Maguire said it is looking for cities 300 to 500 miles from Pittsburgh that previously were served nonstop and that have 30 to 70 passengers traveling in each direction.
In addition to Pittsburgh, other cities OneJet serves include Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Memphis, Tenn.
Mark Belko: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1262.
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