An innovative new commercial airline is getting its start in Milwaukee.
Cambridge, Mass.-based OneJet launched service in April between Indianapolis and Milwaukee, and earlier this month began service between Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.
Passenger loads have been steadily increasing on the flights between Indianapolis and Milwaukee, said OneJet chief executive officer Matthew Maguire.
“So far, it’s been great,” he said.
The OneJet business model is unique. Start with the planes. They are small. Very small. The planes only have seven passenger seats, and OneJet is typically only selling five for now for each flight.
The Milwaukee to Pittsburgh flights feature Hawker 400 aircraft operated by OneJet’s regional operating partner, Waterford, Mich.-based Pentastar Aviation. Pentastar is the inaugural operating partner of the OneJet program.
“The Hawker 400 is a light business jet aircraft,” Maguire said. “Typically, these aircraft have been used by corporations to fly their C-level executives around. Now we’re repurposing this aircraft to be used by regular corporate travelers, giving them nonstop access to where no non-stop service exists today.
OneJet plans to serve medium-sized markets, like Milwaukee, that are former hub airports about 400 to 700 miles apart in the eastern half of the U.S.
“Milwaukee has a number of markets like that,” Maguire said.
OneJet’s service is tailored to business travelers that want direct flights and are willing to pay a higher price for that convenience. The smaller planes operate at a much lower cost than typical large commercial airline jets.
“The ‘secret sauce’ is having the right-sized aircraft for this kind of market,” Maguire said.
Airfare for OneJet flights varies, but ranges from two to three times the lowest commodity coach fare in a market to about equal to coach fare, Maguire said.
OneJet is targeting routes with a demand of about 50 passengers per day, Maguire said. Typical commercial airlines need demand of at least 100 passengers per day to maintain a route. But OneJet can fill the needs of a lower demand threshold with its smaller planes.
“With the aircraft we have here, we can have multiple destinations on the shelf,” Maguire. “We’re the first guys with this type of product.”
In Milwaukee, there is demand for direct flights from business travelers that lament the loss of the longtime hub of Midwest Airlines, and was merged into Frontier Airlines, which has dramatically reduced its presence at Mitchell International Airport. Maguire said that several Fortune 500 companies in Milwaukee are using the OneJet service. He declined to name them.
The service between Milwaukee and Indianapolis is Indianapolis-centric, with flights leaving that city in the morning and returning in the late afternoon. Still, some Milwaukee passengers have been using the service to go to Indianapolis, Maguire said.
The Milwaukee-Pittsburgh route is more Milwaukee focused, with flights leaving Milwaukee at 8 a.m., arriving in Pittsburgh at 10:10 a.m. Returning flights leave Pittsburgh at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and arrive in Milwaukee at 4:20 p.m.
Catering to the business traveler, OneJet’s complimentary onboard amenities include Evian bottled water and the passenger’s choice of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or Financial Times.
OneJet studies historical demand data to determine where to add service, Maguire said. The company plans to grow slowly and hopes to add one plane and one new route each month.
“(The addition of Milwaukee to Pittsburgh service) is the next step in a multi-year, national initiative to introduce demand-responsive air transportation networks within the eastern U.S.,” said John Porcari, a former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation and a senior advisor to OneJet. “As OneJet service is introduced, communities such as Milwaukee will continue to see increased nonstop service and improved regional travel options, easily accessible via existing points of sale.”
Tickets for OneJet flights can be purchased through select corporate and online retailers, including American Express Global Business Travel and Expedia.
“We sell like any other airline, but with aircraft that typically have been used in charter operations,” Maguire said. “We believe the market for regional nonstop travel to and from Milwaukee is strong and we’ve put together a network of aviation and technology partners to respond to that demand. Our goal is to provide our customers with a familiar airline experience but in a way that allows us to allocate our assets dynamically in response to demand.”