As the region moves away from the drastic societal changes created during the Covid-19 pandemic, some of the less charming aspects of the pre-pandemic world have returned with gusto: bumper-to-bumper highway traffic (particularly on I-95) and crowded airports filled with often unpleasant people squeezed into none-too-comfortable flights.
For Rye Brook-headquartered Tailwind Air, however, the post-pandemic era is opening up opportunities designed to help travelers avoid the dreariness of highways and airports. Using Manhattan’s Skyport at the Lower East River off East 23rd Street, the airline introduced two new routes that have the potential of dramatically changing northeastern U.S. travel.
On July 29, Tailwind debuted a service connecting New York City with the Bridgeport-owned and Stratford-based Sikorsky Memorial Airport with a one-way $135 fare. This route is the first regularly scheduled commuter flight from the Fairfield County facility since the 1990s.
“Most of our seaplane fleet is overnighted in Bridgeport,” said Peter Manice, Tailwind’s co-founder, vice president of marketing and director of scheduled operations.
“These flights are super well-timed for morning commuters to go into Manhattan in 25 minutes, turn around and come back in the evening by flying over everybody.”
On Aug. 3, Tailwind will debut service on Aug. 3 from New York City to Boston Harbor, a 75-minute flight with a one-way $395 fare that concludes with a dedicated seven-minute water taxi ride that transfers passengers from the aircraft to the South Boston waterfront.
“Boston had a seaplane base in the ’30s and ’40s that went dormant and no longer existed,” said Manice, adding the company needed to clear multiple regulatory hurdles with the Federal Aviation Administration and 15 state and federal agencies to re-establish a seaplane base in the controlled airspace around Logan Airport.
“We’ve had to work closely with Logan Airport and air traffic control,” Manice said. “That finally all came to fruition about four weeks ago, but it’s been years in the making.”
Founded in 2012, Tailwind had initially focused on seasonal leisure flying to eastern Long Island and the Nantucket-Martha’s Vineyard markets. The airline uses Cessna Caravans that can carry eight passengers and touches down on both land and water.
“It’s a fantastic airplane,” said Manice about the Cessna Caravan. “It’s equipped with all the modern equipment of any aircraft, as well as the navigational equipment and necessary equipment for boat operation. And it’s just amazing.”
Separate from these waterway-based routes, Tailwind also operates a fleet of 15 additional aircraft to handle its chartered flights services, which have seen a new popularity over the past year.
“As the pandemic wore on, we saw a lot of people reaching out to us who had never flown privately before,” Manice said. “We also did some rescue-type missions for people who were overseas and needed to come back. I don’t want to overdramatize how that was, but they were more or less stranded where they were and we became the only flight option.”
As commercial air traffic returns to normalcy, Tailwind is experiencing a new normal of increased inquiries.
“The demand for our private fleet is through the roof,” said Manice, who added Tailwind has offered chartered service from Maine to West Virginia. “It’s the highest demand we’ve ever seen — we’re having to turn away people all the time and you’re almost having to reserve these flights farther in advance that you’ve ever done before.”
While Tailwind has chosen not to continue with its Nantucket-Martha’s Vineyard flights this year — the airline still maintains charter service to that market — Manice said the company is looking south for its next destination.
“Washington is the next major route in our sights,” he said. “It has some unique requirements, but we hope to be able to serve Reagan National Airport nonstop from Manhattan in the next 12 to 18 months.”
The company is also exploring routes serving Connecticut’s two commercial airports, Bradley International and Tweed New Haven.
“We love Connecticut and many of our employees live in Connecticut,” Manice said, adding that the non-Cessna Caravan aircraft in Tailwind’s fleet “is based at Westchester Airport, which sits on the Connecticut borderline.”
Manice is also planning to grow the airline’s fleet to 25 aircraft within a year, but he is not forecasting a corporate growth from a privately held airline into a publicly traded company.
“We look forward to having a lot of success and being in a position at some point to consider different ways of growing,” he said. “But we’re happy where we are right now.”
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.