Flight Plan

‘Urban air mobility is the solution to high congestion’

Our Bureau | Updated on January 24, 2021

BLADE’s future plans in India include the adoption of eVTOLs (electric aircraft that land and take off vertically) - Amit Gupta, BLADE India managing director

BLADE India managing director on the company’s plans for the country

BLADE, a joint venture between the US’s BLADE Urban Air Mobility, Inc, and Hunch Ventures, is an asset-light and digitally powered consumer aviation company that leverages technology and an on-the-ground customer experience network to enable travellers to utilise air travel. BLADE India managing director Amit Gupta shares the company’s plans for the country with BusinessLine.

The charter service to tourist destinations is an interesting concept. How will it play out for tourists?

Private aviation has seen many changes over the years but none so drastic or global as the Covid-19 pandemic. People are now prioritising safety, hygiene, convenience and time, which has led to an increase in charters. Combine this with an all-time rise in domestic travel, which made charters the ideal proposition for tourists. It is in response to this that BLADE India announced the launch of BLADE Anywhere, our personalised charter services, in Karnataka in December 2020.

The fly-by-seat is similar to commercial airline operations. What kind of traction do you think it will have?

Our by-the-seat services are a slightly different concept from commercial operations. It is more about short-haul air mobility that connects places that are not easily accessible or take long hours by road. It does not entail the tedious process of commercial airline operations, which take hours of commute to the airport and an additional 2-3 hours prior to boarding. BLADE’s vertiports at Mahalaxmi and Juhu [in Mumbai], for instance, cut travel time significantly.

How successful have been the operations in the US and are there any best practices that you plan to introduce here?

In December 2020, BLADE USA went public and was valued at $825 million. They’ve conquered short-haul air travel with multiple intercity routes such as New York, Hamptons and Aspen. Their intra-city New York flights connecting Manhattan to major airports such as JFK and Newark have been a huge success. These flights convert a 90-minute road journey to an eight-minute helicopter flight.

BLADE’s future plans [in India] include the adoption of eVTOLs (electric aircraft that land and take off vertically), which is the future of urban air mobility. We have lounges in all our vertiports; we have partnered with the best in business, from hospitality partners such as Ritz Carlton and Hilton Shillim to concierge and ground transport partners Audi and Quintessentially for pick-up and drop-off services.

One reason for the helicopter operations not getting enough traction is the cost. How do you plan to get around this issue?

Our tickets start at ₹11,250 for a 40-minute Mumbai-Pune flight. Compared to a business-class ticket for ₹18,000 in a commercial airline, our service is more personalised and takes away the inconvenience of commuting through busy airports. Urban air mobility (UAM) is the next big disruption. With the trial of eVTOLs and a price point that’s 10 times cheaper than helicopters, UAM is the solution to high congestion.

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Published on January 24, 2021
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