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Long Island-NYC seaplane commuting service may launch this summer

A Tailwind seaplane taxis in the East River

A Tailwind seaplane taxis in the East River in Manhattan on Wednesday, May 31, 2017. Tailwind is partnering with FlyOtto to possibly bring New York City-to-Long Island commuter service via seaplane. Credit: Charles Eckert

A 20-minute commute from Manhattan to Long Island’s Gold Coast could become a reality if there’s enough demand from those willing to pay $385 each way.

Seaplanes already fly between Manhattan’s seaplane airport on the East River and the Hamptons, but Chicago-based OpenAirplane Inc. wants to establish short commuter routes as an alternative to car services and the Long Island Rail Road.

The company and two carriers are looking at six possible locations in New York and New Jersey, including Glen Cove and Oyster Bay.

“You don’t want to spend all that time in traffic, you want another alternative,” OpenAirplane president Rod Rakic said.

The company’s target market is people who are paying “hundreds of dollars for black car sedan service” from Manhattan to the suburbs, he said. “You’re saving a lot of time and it’s just going to be more comfortable,” he said of the plane service.

The service could begin as soon as this month if there is sufficient interest from passengers, he said.

Rakic’s company acts as a broker between passengers who book flights using an app called FlyOtto and plane operators.

Establishing a regular and consistent flight schedule isn’t guaranteed. The planes seat eight passengers and if they don’t book enough seats for a flight to justify the cost, the operator could cancel it, Rakic said.

Two operators — Tailwind Air Service LLC of upstate West Harrison, and White Plains-based Lima NY Corp., which operates under the name Fly the Whale — have signed on to develop commuter routes.

Peter Manice, vice president of sales at Tailwind, said he’s confident there will be enough demand among lawyers and financial executives willing to upgrade from car services to add routes.

“If the Hamptons is any indication — and some of the other places that we fly — there are a number of people who have made the decision to live away from the city, who have plenty of income and they want to get their time back,” Manice said.

Robert Mann Jr., principal of Port Washington-based R.W. Mann & Company Inc., an air industry consulting firm, said the economics of such a route “are pretty unattractive.”

“It’s just a question of whether there’s a sufficient demand at an economic price point that the operator can make money to justify dedicating an aircraft and crew to that route,” Mann said. He noted that enough people pay for flights to the Hamptons to keep seaplanes flying regularly to the East End on Thursdays and Fridays during the summer season.

Alex Gallego, president of the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Chamber of Commerce, said he favored “anything that would produce commerce” and “enhance the vitality and awareness of this community.” But Gallegos said having seaplane flights come regularly to Oyster Bay Harbor would need to be studied to make sure they didn’t create safety issues among commercial and recreational boats.

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