$99 Helicopter Transfers Between NYC And Airports Now Bookable

Several weeks ago I wrote about Gotham Air, which I suppose is trying to be the new Uber or Silvercar of New York City helicopter transfers. They don’t operate the helicopters themselves, but rather facilitate it through their app and website. I guess you could say they’re a helicopter-sharing tech company.

They cut the commute between NYC and JFK/EWR airports down to six minutes.

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While their fares are $199-219 each way (which isn’t horrible, in my opinion), they have introductory rates of $99 when you enter promotion code LAUNCH at the time of booking. The promotion code is apparently only valid for bookings through tomorrow, Tuesday, February 17, 2015.

That actually makes them cheaper than an UberBLACK car since their recent price hike.

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At the time Gotham Air wasn’t actually bookable, though Gotham Air is now finally bookable through their website, for flights beginning Wednesday, February 18, 2015.

The part of their business model that I don’t get is that each helicopter has six seats, though they only fly if at least four of them are sold. In other words, take a look at the flights listed below:

Gotham-Air

The ones in blue are still contingent upon more seats being booked, while the one in green is definitely flying.

While I get where they’re coming from (it’s not economical to fly a helicopter with one passenger that paid $99 and they’re only facilitating the transfer), I think this is a big obstacle in trying to use the service. If you can’t count on a flight operating, how are you supposed to plan around it? Hopefully over time as demand picks up it’s less of an issue, but I just don’t see how that’s supposed to work in practice. Here’s how they describe it:

Thank you for your reservation request. “Shared charter” helicopter flights are confirmed when a total of four seats are reserved. You can see your flight’s status on your mobile phone or watch your inbox for the updates. Flight time listings turn GREEN when the 4th seat has been sold.

The other thing that’s a bit odd is that you seem to be limited to one 25 pound carry-on:

Helicopter passengers are allowed one carry-on with a maximum weight of 25 lbs.

That doesn’t seem very practical if you’re headed to the airport, no? My carry-on weighs more than that. šŸ˜‰

Would you give Gotham Air a shot given their rates and restrictions/policies? If anyone flies with them, I’d love to hear about your experience!

Comments

  1. I would think the uncertainty would make it unusable. Unless they are after the last-second market then it might work for some. Do they get you to the airport some other way if the flight doesn’t go? Or are you just on your own?

  2. What is the problem if you can cancel anytime? You book, you wait until like 15 mins before you can make it to the airport with a cab, and if the chopper is not confirmed, you just take a cab.

  3. I’ve been trying to figure out the following:

    Where do they put you in JFK and EWR? Are you inside security at a terminal? Will you need ground transport to your terminal?

  4. Too many unanswered questions to try it and risk missing a flight. I don’t believe any of the heliports have TSA anymore. Once you get to JFK/EWR, I assume you have to go back outside and check-in, really negating a lot of the premium you’re paying. How much time would it take to exit wherever the helicopter drops you and get to another terminal? There’s a fair bit of helicopter transfers from downtown to Teterboro but you’re dealing with huge security lines there.

  5. @Alex: getting to JFK in 6 minutes, rather than 60-90 (from Manhattan) is a big plus. Newark, from where i live usually takes me only 25 minutes and rarely more than 45. It’s an easier airport to get to for Manhattanites.
    Sadly, their only heliport for now is on the lower east side, so that will also take a long time to get to.
    And, the one carry-on limit is a big obstacle. It says to call them to ask about how to get more bags to the airport (I usually check 2 for each trip…)

    And finally, helicopter travel is significantly less safe than driving, and is also extremely loud, even with ear protection. Every year or two, a helicopter crashes in the NYC area.

  6. Strongly thought about it for my upcoming oz trip. Taking Amtrak to Penn station and then out to JFK.

    Flight times not guaranteed? Scratch. No baggage? Scratch. May as well just take lirr from Penn station.

  7. Ben, you’re too young to remember the scheduled Pan Am helicopter service between the JFK Pan Am terminal and the 34th St. Heliport. They used (IIRC) 12-passenger Sikorsky aircraft and took baggage on the flight, although everything was weighed and they reserved the right to bump you to the next flight if you and your luggage were too heavy for that one.

    First Class and Clipper (Business) Class passengers on connecting flights flew for free.

    That was VERY nice…

  8. Do they sell flights JFK->NYC? I’m flying out of LGA this SUnday but back to JFK next Wednesday. For ~$30 more than a taxi I would love to book a flight on a helicopter.

  9. I just made a reservation for his Friday. NYC-JFK. Can wait until my accounting department see the bill.

    I wonder where they drop you off at JFK?

  10. @ Paul Feagan — I’d contact them and ask, though I think technically singe bags aren’t a person, that would be tricky.

  11. 6 minutes is a bit of a stretch. I think it is about 12 miles from the heliport to JFK. That means you have to average 120mph including take off and landing. Presumably you need to travel to get to the heliport on time as well and you’d have to pad your schedule accordingly. From midtown Manhattan, this is probably marginally faster than the Subway. I can really only see this being more convenient for someone who lives or works in the financial district and can walk to the helipad (therefore no need to pad your schedule for traffic).

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