THE HIGH LIFE: Uber for Helicopters is a Thing Now

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Crazy, absurd, ridiculous, but I love the idea. Pretty freakin’ cool.

Getting to the airport is a pain in the ass; helicopter rides are fun and fast; and ridesharing apps are booming. These are the core ideas behind Gotham Air, a helicopter service that promises to get you from helipad to airport in six minutes. Do you need it? Definitely not. Is it incredibly fun? Absolutely.

Gotham Air officially launches today in New York City, with the website and mobile site open for bookings starting this afternoon. The app, an exact mirror of the mobile site, launches on Android and iOS in the coming days, though the first 2,500 people who signed up for the beta release should see an invite to download sometime today. As for the service itself, the main draw (other than ohmygod helicopter) is price; a typical flight is $219 per person (far less than the cost of chartering an entire helicopter yourself, which can easily hit upwards of $1,000). Still, does anyone actually need this? No—almost certainly not. But after taking a flight for ourselves, we can definitely see why people might want it.

The “Uber for” prefix has become painfully prevalent in startup-land, but there are some key differences here. The most important being that you’re not just hopping into some stranger’s getup and praying for the best. You’re hopping into an FAA-certified stranger’s professional helicopter charter—Helicopter Flight Services’ charters, to be exact. Though while the choppers and pilots have already been HFS-approved, they’re being branded for Gotham Air-use, with the app and site acting as the middleman to connect fliers to the constantly on-call fleet.

Or at least for now, mostly on-call. Gotham Air’s CEO, Tim Hayes, assured us that while the helicopters will only be running from 8am to 8pm at launch time, the company is hopping to hit 6am to 10pm in phase two and, eventually, 24 hours a day. At launch, the only two destinations are JFK and Newark airports, but pending the public’s response, that could very well expand in the months to came. But how’s it all work? As absurd as it might seem to book a helicopter less than an hour in advance, that’s the hope.

Presumably, you just hop onto the website or app, look for an available trip, and book. The catch here is that at least three other people will have to book the same trip to make it a go (the helicopters will travel with at least four and up to six passengers), which is why, even though you can book that hour, there will be plenty of “incentives” to book in advance.

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