Long security lines. Sardine-can-style airplane. $18 snack boxes. And don’t forget hair-raising traffic to La Guardia or JFK. These are just a few of the flying experiences that Tailwind Air — a new shuttle service flying from Manhattan — is hoping to solve with their chic, customized seaplane rides, aided by design from a Hell’s Kitchen local.
The company, which has this year started daily shuttle rides from an E23rd Street and FDR Drive launching pad to Boston, DC, the Hamptons, Provincetown and more, offers a speedy, smooth and luxurious flight experience, without the cost of a private jet. Tickets are priced at approximately $495-$795 per shuttle — more than a business-class ticket, but less than a private ride. Tailwind maintains a fleet of Cessna Caravan seaplanes that are capable of landing on water or land, feature two operating pilots, generous seating and climate control and spectacular views of your departure point and destination.
In order to create an elevated passenger experience, Tailwind worked with creative firm Forward Media, whose collaborations with aviation clients around the world have produced redesigned airports, planes and flight experiences for decades. W42ST chatted to Forward’s creative director and longtime Hell’s Kitchen resident Edmond Huot about his journey to working with Tailwind and bringing the fun back to travel.
“I grew up on a farm in Canada,” said Huot, “and because I was sort of isolated, I developed two things: a love for all things airplane-related and a love of drawing. When you’re in the middle of nowhere, you fantasize about what’s out there.” He spent the majority of his childhood sketching jets and passenger planes.
Years later, after graduating from the University of Manitoba and working for Air Canada, he met business partner Peter Clark and they decided to open graphic design firm ClarkHuot. Huot put his drawing skills and college training to work, the company grew, and though he would eventually leave his job with the airline, ClarkHuot’s work remained connected to the aviation industry. As Forward Media, their work veered into becoming a creative agency, working on projects like new design for the Canada James Armstrong Winnipeg International Airport and for Hawaii-based airline Island Hopper.
“In 2005, we decided we wanted to move to New York, and once we did, we started working with even more airline clients,” said Huot. Their reputation for helping airlines and airports identify passenger experience opportunities, build brand cohesiveness and generate revenue was well established by the time Tailwind approached the team.
“We were told that they were scrappy and looking for ways to elevate the passenger experience,” said Huot. The seaplane company tasked them with designing the airline’s lounge at the FDR Drive skyport. “We didn’t have a huge budget, but we’re resourceful, and the client was very open to ideas,” he added. They were able to source furniture and decor to “take very little and do a lot with it.”
In designing the experience at Tailwind, Huot was inspired by the bygone era of jet-set celebrity travel — “When you think about 1970s and 1980s New York, there were all these creatives and artists like Andy Warhol who would hop a seaplane to Montauk — it was a really glamorous era of travel and I’m always a fan of that sort of storytelling, and figuring out ways to bring it to the modern realm,” he said.
Huot believes that short, intra-regional travel will continue to gain popularity and that fast, pleasant, and in the future, electric-based low fossil fuel flying experiences will be go-tos: “In the era of the Concorde or the early seaplanes, it was a small group of people who needed to get somewhere, and time was the factor— and in that way, I’m always looking to the past to see what the future holds,” he added.
When he’s not flying or thinking about flying, Huot, who moved to Hell’s Kitchen in 2010, spends his time dining at local favorite La Vela or being a regular at his corner bodega. “It’s a lifeline and unless you’ve lived here, you don’t understand that sense of community,” he added. And of course, dreaming up new ways to make travel painless and pleasurable again. While he’s tight lipped about Forward’s next project, he promised: “Stand by and you’ll get to see what comes out!” Up, up and away!