BLADE Introduces Annual Helicopter Membership

Filed Under: Misc.

In March 2019, BLADE Continuous launched, which offers continuous service between Manhattan and the three New York City area airports (EWR, JFK, and LGA). At $195 per seat, it brought helicopter pricing to a much more affordable level than ever before, though obviously it’s still far from cheap.

The challenge for BLADE will be creating consistent enough demand for this service. In other words, they need enough people to not just try this for the novelty, but to use BLADE for their airport transfers over and over.

Along those lines, BLADE has just launched two new membership options. I’m not writing about them because I necessarily think they’re an amazing deal, but rather because I find this strategy to be intriguing.

BLADE has launched Airport Pass and Airport Pass PLUS, and they cost $295-795 per year.

BLADE Airport Pass

BLADE Airport Pass costs $295, and includes the following for a year:

  • Flight Savings – $50 off every BLADE Airport flight you take in the next year
    Convenient Travel Options – Travel between three BLADE Manhattan Lounges and JFK, Newark, or LaGuardia Airports
  • Companion Savings – Receive $25 off one companion seat per flight (as long as you are flying on that same flight)
  • Customer Service – Dedicated 24/7 Flier Relations Specialists

BLADE Airport Pass PLUS

BLADE Airport Pass PLUS costs $795, and includes the following for a year:

  • Increased Flight Savings – $100 off every BLADE Airport flight you take in the next year — that’s unlimited flights to or from all airports for only $95 — less than the cost of almost any car service.
  • Corporate Expense Friendly – Flights cost only $95 (after pass discount) which fits within most corporate expense account limits for airport transport. If you (or your company) pay for the Pass, then you can expense all of your flights (YOUR CFO WILL LOVE YOU FOR IT.)
  • Convenient Travel Options – Travel between three BLADE Manhattan Lounges and JFK, Newark, or LaGuardia Airports
  • Companion Savings – Receive $50 off one companion seat per flight (as long as you are flying on that same flight)
  • Customer Service – Dedicated 24/7 Flier Relations Specialists

My take on BLADE memberships

This essentially offers discounts to people who are frequently using BLADE. Given the usual cost of $195 in each direction, the Airport Pass will pay for itself after three roundtrips, while the Airport Pass PLUS will pay for itself after four roundtrips.

It’s an intriguing concept. BLADE helicopters have six seats, and in the past they’ve said that they break even if they sell 2-3 seats (which suggests the one-way operating costs are ~$400-600).

So using that logic, in theory they’d break even if they filled a helicopter with people paying $95 per seat, and their “profit” would be the annual membership fee.

I imagine the way they’re viewing it, they’re not operating anywhere close to a 100% load factor. So if they can encourage people to use the service while breaking even on the seat and pocketing the annual membership fee, that seems like a smart decision. In other words, it allows them to diversify their sales strategy a bit more than in the past.

Personally I’m terrified of helicopters, so this isn’t for me, but I’ll watch from a distance with interest…

Would anyone consider buying one of these BLADE annual memberships?

Comments
  1. Is there a specific reason you’re terrified of helicopters? I know it’s not really a fair comparison but you enjoy (or at least isn’t terrified of) flying small planes.

  2. I know friends who have used BLADE and enjoyed the service. I think they’d partake in the annual pass but the limiting factor is the luggage. Total weight limit of luggage is 25lbs. For vacation-type trips and anything over 3 days of business trips, they’d just take car service. I can see this being doable for business travelers travelling on short trips though.

  3. This actually isn’t a bad deal for those that fly often out of JFK, but I think the biggest problem is the location of their heliports in Manhattan. They are on the rivers on either side, which are far from subway stops. That means that I need to either burn a lot of time walking with luggage, or pay more for an Uber and deal with midtown traffic just to get to the heliport. Oh, and the recent helicopter crash doesn’t help.

  4. Is there a specific reason you’re terrified of helicopters? I know it isn’t a fair comparison but you seem to be fine with smaller planes.

  5. I would hope the plan comes with good life insurance. Didn’t blade just have a crash into the hudson?
    I booked a helicopter ride in Nepal to base camp but then paid the penalty and cancelled. It’s just not worth the risk.

  6. This isn’t for me either… I always use E train/airtran for JFK. I know a lot of people complain about it but I personally have never had issues (knock on wood…) And find it to be way faster than sitting on the Van Wyck in bumper to bumper traffic…
    I could see this being a decent deal for LGA though, since there isn’t any way to get there besides a cab or Uber, which isn’t necessarily that much cheaper when you factor in the time.

  7. Also speaking of NYC subways/taxis, Ben, worth noting that Amex offers has 4x bonus points for the new OMNI tap to pay on the 4,5,6 trains and on taxis

  8. I’m a helicopter pilot and would love to show you my machine, talk about safety and at least show you another perspective. Don’t even need to get inside 🙂 Next time you find yourself in Puerto Rico if you’d like to come to the ramp of the airport look me up..

  9. @Peter, for LGA if youre not averse to public transit, there is aways the M60 SBS connecting from the 4/5/6 or N/W. Its actually pretty great. The N/W connection is better because even with traffic the bus stop is less than 15 minutes to LGA.

  10. It still costs money to get TO the Blade lounge, and then another $95 to the airport. You’re not saving any money, just time.

    Im also curious why they fly from E34th to Newark, Wall St to LGA and the W30th to JFK. Wouldnt it make more sense/lower operating costs/shorten flights if they fly from Wall St to JFK, E34th to LGA and W30th to Newark? Or, since many domestic business travelers prefer to use LGA, why not offer services from all three lounges to LGA?

  11. Took it once. From my office to jfk was less than half an hour on a Friday afternoon. If I had more $$ I’d take it all the time. But I don’t so it’s subways and UberX for me.

  12. @Dave

    Assuming they only serve one airport from each heliport, the time savings for customers over a car service are greatest for the people furthest away from each airport. It’s hard to justify the cost/inconvenience of this service if it wouldn’t take significantly longer in an Uber.

  13. not useful if you have more than one small piece of luggage, their luggage policies are abysmal. on top of that, helicopters have proven, specially recently, to not be very safe. im good, staying away as far from these helicopters as I can.

  14. It’s perfectly logical to be afraid of helicopters. Even a lot of helo pilots are afraid of helicopters. At least when a fixed wing aircraft suffers an engine failure, it still has lift working for it. All you have working for you in a helo is autorotation.

    Airplanes fly because they use air for lift. Helicopters fly by beating the air beneath them into submission. Sometimes the air fights back. >.>

  15. Dear Patrick D,

    a 100 % agree for your contribution. The rotary wing aircraft/helicopter is IMHO the most complicated equipment you may use for air transportation.

    Therefore a high risk is involved in any travel activity with this equipment. With this technical complexity in mind I would never offer such transportation to private persons just for saving some minutes.

    The “price” the passengers, the crew and the local people pay in case of an incident is very high.

    Therefore it should be reserved for emergency services, the military and the one- or to time a year event a person *really* wants to see a skyline.

    And not bargaining the price down and pressurizing all people involved for perfect contributions every day. This may lead to more incidents in winter weather or bad conditions.

    Therefore: I wouldn’t use that service.

  16. I threw this warning few months back right after one went down in the Hudson. I predicted this back then and selling membership just reinforce my observations.

    This is failing business 101.

    I’m just going to copy paste below.

    WARNING!!!!!!!!

    THIS CAN BE A QUICK CASH GRAB SCHEME.

    They just lost one in Hudson. And I don’t believe they are just a tech company and have no stake. They could pass on the money to the operator right away, or they are a shadow entity. Nothing points to Blade being independent from the operators.

    I SMELL BIG BIG CASH PROBLEM.

    READERS BEWARE!!!!

    P.S. Not trying to discredit Blade. But this should be addressed to stop consumer concern.

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