New York-based Blade Urban Air Mobility, which offers helicopter air-taxi service in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and majority partner Delhi-based Hunch Ventures recently started preliminary routes in India. It also has firm plans to expand helicopter services in the business, pilgrim, and tourism sectors in India, Blade India managing director Amit Dutta told AIN.
“We work with operators who adhere to stringent quality and safety guidelines not just of the Indian regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, but of Blade U.S.,” Dutta said.
He added that the short-haul pilot flights between Mumbai, India’s commercial capital; Pune, an industrial and automobile center 75 miles away; and pilgrim town Shirdi using an Airbus H130 with a 268-mile range flown by a local operator was reaping a load factor of 80 percent since the launch in late November. Dutta added a large majority of customers had flown more than once in that time period.
Starting on January 15, the company is further rationalizing its service in India and will be adding frequency with a Bell 407. “We will also look at a regular shuttle air-taxi between Mumbai and Pune—a four- to five-hour road journey compressed into 37 minutes by air,” added Dutta.
He told AIN helicopter service during a recent concert by U2 in Mumbai cut down the congested 2.5-hour road journey to the stadium to 15 minutes. Blade India carried out 14 sorties for 89 passengers during this concert. “The Bollywood crowd loved it,” he added.
“Today, travel is relevant. The issue we are offering is the cost of time,” said Dutta. “The company has set up branded and hosted lounges at helipads, giving a style and luxury to add to the experience.”
Blade India is now planning to expand to the southern state of Karnataka, with Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) as its capital with a large business and “high-value tourism routes.” Details on this expansion will be released by the end of next month. The product is expected to be similar to Blade Bounce of its U.S. counterpart.
“We want to change the way people perceive short-haul aviation—helicopters today to eVTOLs tomorrow,” said Karanpal Singh, founder of Hunch Ventures and Blade India.