Ultimate Air Shuttle Offers High-End Treatment for Reasonable Price
Imagine arriving at the airport for your next business trip, parking just minutes away from your private hangar, skipping the endless lines at security and being seated in your plush first-class seat within a half hour. Once onboard, you are treated to an open bar and a free meal (think fresh fruit and yogurt parfait).
Ultimate Air Shuttle advertises "VIP Travel for the Cost of Commercial" on its website. And no, your name does not have to be Beyonce or Bill Gates to book the flight (and for the average business traveler, you will find surprisingly affordable airfare).
Based out of Cincinnati, the charter company flies the public roundtrip to New York (via Morristown, N.J.), Chicago (via Midway) and Washington (via Dulles). And Ultimate recently added service to Detroit from Columbus, Ind.
Tailored to a businessperson's schedule, flights depart from Cincinnati and Columbus between 6:30 and 7:45 a.m. and return by 8 p.m. (in time for dinner) every weekday except Wednesday.
An Affordable Luxury
A set roundtrip fare takes the guesswork and games out of shopping for tickets. Fly to Chicago or Detroit for $495 and Washington or New York for $695.
Considering roundtrip tickets for a last-minute, nonstop from Cincinnati to New York can cost upwards of $950, flying Ultimate Air Shuttle is a steal.
Oh, and by the way, that commercial seat you just bought is in leg-crushing economy, and you will have to pay for parking, extra bags and anything you eat beyond that little bag of pretzels.
Compare this with cost of flying Ultimate, where parking, baggage and food are included in the price. There's no cost to change or cancel a flight, and your parking spot is just 5 minutes from your seat. Oh, and you can skip that long line at security.
If you are not feeling like a rock star yet, consider this: the jets hold just 30, so you are not going to be stuck with a lot of riffraff, and the spacious first-class seats are all leather.
Their rewards program is pretty straightforward, too: purchase 20 flights to any of the cities Ultimate services, and you will get a free flight.
At a time when many carriers are charging fees for passengers to book a flight through an actual customer service representative, Ultimate will happily take your reservation online or on the phone (no extra charge).
Plans to Expand
Ultimate Air Shuttle started in 2009 with flights to New York. It expanded service to Chicago in September 2010, Washington in June 2011 and it will begin service to Detroit in November.
Ultimate also is considering expanding service out of Morristown Municipal Airport in New Jersey, offering flights to Boston starting this spring, according to a recent article in the Daily Record.
This niche airline is successfully filling in gaps left by commercial airlines like Delta, which has cut back the number of flights it offers at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Just a few years ago, the airport offered 600 flights daily, including nonstop flights to Rome, London and Paris, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. Now, there are just 190 flights a day and just one flight to Paris.
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The decrease in availability has been a boon to Ultimate, which is based out of Lunken Airfield, a small airport just outside the city.
Considering the financial trouble many major airlines are in, charter operators like Ultimate Air Shuttle might be able to create their own niche for business travelers.