An Uber for helicopters? Yes it's a thing.
A new ride-sharing service is opening up the skies for passengers who can afford to fly over the traffic on their way to the airport in New York. Is this a game-changer in urban transportation?
If you find yourself scrambling to get to the airport in New York and can spare two-hundred bucks, a new mobile application will help you to make like Anna in the movie Predator and "GET TO THE CHOPPA."
A new ride-sharing helicopter service, Gotham Air, launched today in New York. Riders can use the service to travel from one of three helipads in downtown Manhattan to JFK Airport or Newark Liberty International Airport in six minutes. Customers can either book a ride online or through a mobile app. According to Gizmodo, the first 2,500 people to sign up for the Beta test received an invite to download the application today.
For starters, the service will connect passengers with on-call FAA-certified pilots, according to Gizmodo. The pilots' aircraft have been leased by Gotham Air through the Helicopter Flight Services or HFS of New York, according to the New York Post. Gotham Air is not the direct air-carrier and its website and app will serve as a booking service.
All flights will have to carry 4-6 passengers. Therefore, the only way to book a last minute chopper out of Dodge is to hope that three other passengers have booked their helicopter ride ahead of time.
Gotham Air CEO Tim Hayes told Gizmodo that at launch the service would be available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, while relying on his on-call network of pilots and choppers. His goal is to have the service extended to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and eventually to 24 hours a day. Mr. Hayes told Gizmodo that depending on the volume of customers he may be open to introducing the service in other major cities.
Ideas for ride-sharing startups for air travel have been floated in the past. Jay-Z and Ashton Kutcher's attempt to create an “Uber plane" service called "Blackjet" over a year ago struggled to build a following, and has since been forced to scaled back operations, according to Gawker. That service costs an annual membership fee of $2,500 for the privilege of booking a seat on a private jet at a moment’s notice.
Gotham Air is unique because of its relatively low price. Chartering a helicopter ride can usually run well over $1,000, but first-time customers will be awarded a one-time introductory price of a single ride for $99, at certain hours of the week.
Otherwise, rides will generally cost $199 to $219, depending on time of day and which airport the passengers are going to. Flights include on-board refreshments provided by chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery, and luggage is free under 25 pounds.
“Chopper rides shouldn’t be reserved for the super-elite,” Mr. Hayes told the New York Post back in January. “We want to give as many people as possible the chance to experience a helicopter flight.”
[Editor's note: This article has been changed from its original version to more accurately describe Blackjet.]