City wary of high fares, inflexible helicopter taxi rides

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The announcement of a new helicopter taxi service to Bengaluru Airport has created a lot of buzz on social media but offline people are unsure of its viability.

Urban mobility company Blade India is launching its intra-city helicopter taxi service in Bengaluru from October 10, starting with a 12-minute airport shuttle.

It will operate a five-seater flight between Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) and Hindustan Aeronautical Airport twice daily on weekdays.

The ride will cost Rs 3,250 (excluding tax) per traveler one way, and it will include pickup and drop off between the airport and their heliport.

Another company, Thumby Aviation, plans to resume helicopter taxi trips to the airport from early November, Metrolife has learned. “We started operating in Bengaluru in 2018 but stopped when the Covid-19 crisis hit. We wanted to do it again last year but we didn’t because the travel was much less,” CEO Govind Nair said.

The city speaks

The cry for alternative transport to Bengaluru airport has intensified in recent years due to traffic congestion and high fees levied by taxis, both of which worsen during rains. Still, adoption of helicopter taxis is a long way to go, say aviation enthusiasts like Pranav Kashyap.

JP Nagar resident explains, “It’s exciting that more and more companies are launching helicopter taxis, but as they grow, the airport will have metropolitan connectivity and that will have a significant impact on their business. “. By now, he thinks, people would book the heli-taxi for “the experience” or “in case of emergency”.

Some like Ashika Khanna are in conflict over the price. A Wilson Garden audit assistant, she said, “Helicopter taxis are quite expensive compared to land taxis, so I can use it once.” Shloka K, a design student from Konankunte, finds the price fair but does not complain about a long road trip
because she can “use this time productively to work”.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the vice-president of an ed-tech company, says the heli-taxi will appeal to business travelers. “But the heli-taxi operates at a specific time and is not available on demand, so questions about flexibility have to be answered,” he adds.

But Amit Dutta, managing director of Blade India, is confident about the future of helicopter taxis. “There are a large number of travelers who prioritize time over cost. They can catch a flight in the morning, finish their work and return to town in the evening. Not only do they avoid traffic jams, but they also don’t need to spend money on hotels to stay,” he says.

Discussion on the helipad

The Blade India heliport was built one nautical mile from the airport to avoid interference with other flights, Dutta informs.

But Thumby had encountered operational problems. “We had rented a helipad next to the airport from KIA, but when the second runway came, it became difficult to operate from that helipad,” Nair explained for another reason they had to discontinue their helicopter taxi service.

And in the city, many helipads remain out of use. “There are more than 90 rooftop heliports in Bengaluru, but Indian regulators have put in place restrictions on their operation. If all helipads are activated, it would make intra-city helicopter services more viable,” Nair added.

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