Debbie White, an entertainment lawyer with the firm Grubman Indursky & Shire, was inside the stuffy cabin of a floating Cessna seaplane docked at Manhattan’s Skyport Marina on Friday, June 27. “It’s kind of hot,” said Ms. White, clutching a cold beer. She was awaiting takeoff to sunny East Hampton, where she was scheduled to meet up with her celebrity clients, Dina Lohan and Ali Lohan, for an party promoting their E! network reality show, Living Lohan.
Traveling by car from Manhattan could take hours, depending on traffic. But if the frickin’ plane would ever take off, she could be there in under 40 minutes.
Hey, it beats the Jitney. … Or does it?
“It’s better when we leave on time,” griped another antsy passenger, in the seat in front of Ms. White (the plane seats up to eight). Outside, along the dock, a whole load of other passengers, their jet docked directly behind the Cessna, were also waiting. Bottleneck at the seaplane gate!
Turned out, they were all waiting on one guy: nightclub impresario Michael Satsky. And waiting. And waiting.
“I’m going to kill him when he gets here,” Ms. White said.
Several minutes later, Mr. Satsky, dressed in jeans and a shiny untucked shirt, hoofed it down the dock, flopped breathlessly into his seat and buckled in for the big ride. “Everyone’s so mad at me,” he said with a grin.
It’s not like he didn’t know the flight schedule. Mr. Satsky, owner of the new Lily Pond nightclub in East Hampton, is not just a frequent seaplane passenger—“Back and forth every weekend,” he said. “It’s the only way to fly”—but a promoter. Buy a jeroboam of Cristal champagne for $10,000 at his club and get two round-trip flights on V1 Jets, one of at least two companies currently offering seasonal seaplane shuttles from the marina dock at East 23rd Street to the Hamptons. Whatta bargain!
“We’ll probably sell four of them next week,” Mr. Satsky said. “It’s a special service for our most important clients.”
Indeed, the seaplane isn’t for everyone. A 40-minute lift to Montauk, one way, costs $475, more than the average round-trip commercial flight to Cleveland. But who wants to go to Cleveland?
“This is not the Air Jitney—it’s the anti-Jitney,” said Andrew Zarrow, a former venture capitalist who is now V1’s president and chief operating officer. “It’s tailored for the private-jet client.”
He said the rate was actually rather reasonable for the sort of upscale travelers who “value their time and money,” since chartering one’s own private plane can run a couple thousand. The 7 a.m. Monday-morning flight is popular with bankers and traders. (“Guys go straight from the dock into midtown or downtown and are at their desks at 8:15,” Mr. Zarrow said.) Cost-conscious celebrities who have used the service include the actors Kyle MacLachlan and Jeremy Piven and the models Jessica Stam and Petra Nemcova. A few weeks ago, the Transom hitched a seaplane to Montauk and back, only to learn that Dallas Cowboys star wide receiver Terrell Owens had warmed our seat on an earlier flight.
It’s not all glamour, however. “I expected to see a lot more opulence, Louis Vuitton luggage, things like that,” said New York University student Dustin Seplow, who’s spending the summer checking in passengers for Shoreline Aviation, a rival carrier. “We see more Whole Foods bags and hemp stuff.”
And then there are the delays, whether caused by weather or errant VIPs.
Still, Ms. White, the Lohans’ lawyer, was impressed with her maiden flight. “I’d taken a helicopter before, but I’d never taken a seaplane,” she said. “It’s like a dream. A very easy, smooth ride. The view was spectacular.”