Meet the small airline offering a unique Manhattan-Boston seaplane service

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Tailwind Air, a private aviation operator, is offering a unique seaplane service between Manhattan and Boston. The seaplanes, which can carry eight passengers, provide a downtown-to-downtown travel experience, offering convenience and faster journey times compared to traditional airports. The service aims to cater to business travelers, but is also attracting leisure travelers. However, the service is weather-dependent and operates seasonally between April and December. Tailwind has plans to expand its service and is exploring the possibility of year-round operations and increased capacity. The airline is also considering electric regional aircraft for future operations.

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Boarding a flight to New York directly from a oyster bar on the bank of Boston’s Charles River is not your typical air travel experience. However, Tailwind Air is embracing this unconventional approach to establish itself in the competitive US market. Seaplanes lost popularity following the rise of jets and the expansion of airport infrastructure after World War II. Nevertheless, seaplanes continued to serve niche markets, particularly remote and island communities. With busy airports and lengthy pre-flight procedures, some operators are turning to the sea and rivers for alternative travel options.

Tailwind Air, a private aviation company, has been operating seaplanes in the northeastern United States since 2014. In 2021, they entered the Boston to New York inter-city travel market. They utilize Cessna Caravan amphibian seaplanes that can accommodate eight passengers and two pilots. Although these seaplanes may be slower than traditional jets, Tailwind emphasizes the total journey time. By departing and arriving in downtown areas (Manhattan’s East River and Fan Pier Marina on the Charles River in Boston), Tailwind offers a convenient and time-saving experience. While their prices are not budget-friendly, customers appreciate the unique service.

However, the use of seaplanes is largely dependent on weather conditions due to the requirement of a flat water surface. When weather conditions make water operations unsafe, Tailwind resorts to alternative land airports. Around 8% of their flights end up using diversionary airports. The service runs from April to December, excluding the winter months. Tailwind has seen increasing demand from business travelers, as well as leisure travelers seeking a different experience. The scenic views during the seaplane’s final approach to Manhattan or Boston add to the allure.

To enhance the overall experience, Tailwind has established unique check-in venues. Passengers departing from Manhattan can use the SkyPort lounge, while the ReelHouse Oyster bar in Boston serves as a check-in venue for Tailwind. The company has also introduced two membership programs, Fast Lane Club and Fast Lane Club Plus, which offer discounted fares and exclusive benefits. Furthermore, Tailwind operates seaplane routes along the New England seaboard and had a temporary service between Manhattan and Washington DC in 2022, with potential plans to reinstate it in 2024.

Seaplane operations like Tailwind could get a boost in the future with the development of hybrid-electric and electric regional aircraft. Tailwind signed a letter of intent with Airflow, a Californian startup developing a hybrid-electric regional aircraft. This partnership later transitioned to, another hybrid-electric aircraft developer. The use of electric propulsion is expected to decrease operating costs for regional operators, allowing seaplane airlines to expand their services.

Overall, Tailwind Air offers a distinctive travel experience, bridging the gap between downtown areas in Boston and New York. With their focus on convenience and time-saving, they cater to frequent business travelers and those seeking a unique journey. Despite the weather limitations and higher price range, their seaplane service continues to gain popularity. Additionally, the possibility of electric aviation in the future could further revolutionize their operations.

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