Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Luxury helicopter services turn rescuers during lockdown

Asset-light urban air mobility (UAM) company, Blade India, that is the Uber for helicopters, is working on plugging a major gap in the market right now: emergency airlifts and organ transportation.
In March, to fend off further Covid-19 threats, India closed its air space off to commercial flights till April 14, cancelling about 700 flights a week of both foreign and Indian carriers.
This is when the New York-based urban mobility service that set up office in India just last year sprung into action.
Otherwise VIP and luxury chopper companies have had to stop their regular pilot seat service due to the lockdown and have now started catering to emergency and essential travel charters with clearances from local authorities.
"With commercial flights not being in operation, we are keeping our service open for medical emergencies as well," said Karanpal Singh, partner at Hunch Ventures, the equity investment firm that has partnered with Blade to make India its first international market.
For its regular charter service, it charges about Rs 18,000 per seat including GST, but a company can book out an entire helicopter too.
Captain Simran Singh Tiwana, CEO of Star Air, that has a fleet of 4-5 air crafts and helicopters says that at least 10% more inquiries are coming in for emergency air pick ups and medical movement.
"Since the government regulation states that medical transfers are allowed at this time, demand is going up for it. If partial air traffic movement is allowed soon, the regular charter business will be up and running too," he said. They are receiving 10-12 queries a day but sometimes that comes from people who want to go from Delhi to Pune. But helicopters can't do long distances.
20/04/20 Varuni Khosla/Economic Times
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