a seat in a plane

The only downside to Blade helicopter rides? They ruin you…

With Blade, I ticked something off my bucket list. Then, I did it over and over again.

Despite the fact that I tend to find myself in an airplane every few days, I’d never been in a helicopter, let alone one whirling above the dizzying heights of my former home, New York City. Taking one to the city, or from the airport to the city is life changing.

On an absolutely gorgeous Manhattan day, with a perfectly timed flight ahead, I finally change that a few years ago. Since, I’ve taken Blade more times than I can count based on how useful it is during peak traffic.

I took the BLADE “Urban Air Mobility” helicopter service from the city to the airport, and echoing the sentiment of others, it’s really ruined me for life, perhaps in a good way. For $149, why wouldn’t you?

a helicopter on a ship

The first key detail is the “where”. BLADE has an outpost in midtown west, and midtown east, at the 30th street west side heliport, and the 34th street east side heliport, and the service is the same price for both.

Pro tip: have lunch at Mercado Little Spain or an area around Hudson Yards and you can pretty much walk to the chopper on West 30th.

For the record, it’s $195-$225 per person depending on how far in advance you book, but I have a readily available promotional code that knocks $50 off, making it $145 all in. Before I get into it all, I really loved it for a few reasons.

  • The journey is gorgeous.
  • The novelty is off the charts.
  • The customer service is (mostly) excellent.
  • The lack of stress with traffic timing is worth a lot to me.
  • 7 minutes between Manhattan and airport is nuts.

If novelty and a few pictures are part of the allure, you’ll want to depart from the west side, where you’ll enjoy more prolonged skyline views including lower Manhattan. With a flight time of just around 7 minutes, those extra few seconds come in handy.

And that’s the big dazzler here: you quite literally lift off from Manhattan at one time, and arrive on the tarmac at JFK or LaGuardia under 7 minutes later. It’s a total buzz. I had a friend taking a similar flight, and they paid over $100 for an Uber, and the journey took 2.5 hours, just barely making their flight.

Think about that…

a room with a cactus and chairs

As noted, I’ve done this a good few times now and on this occasion I took off from the BLADE Lounge at the East 34th street heliport. From where I was staying on 38th street, it was a mere 15 minute walk.

If we factor in a 15 minute walk, 10 minute buffer before take-off and a 7 minute ride, you’re at around 32 minutes total journey time door to door.

For Blade West, a hotel like the Pendry, High Line, or anything Chelsea or Midtown West would put you 10-15 minutes away walking, at max. Mercado Little Spain is about a 5 minute walk.

Justifying The Expense

This expense is much easier to justify if you weren’t sharing an Uber bill into the city. If you’re solo, it’s really marginal versus Uber.

For a solo traveler the expense is highly comparable to black car service and based on the time savings, the extra time for meetings or family time is valuable. You’ll really do best with BLADE if you are in a hotel with close enough proximity to these midtown locations, or plan to arrive from a nearby office or restaurant.

Arrival At Blade

Guests are told to arrive 10 minutes before their chopper departure time, and being just a minute late generally means you will miss your ride, and be faced with an expensive rebooking. I’ve done 5 minutes and been fine, for what it’s worth.

Assuming a 15 minute journey to the heliport, a 10 minute wait to depart for safety sake and a 7 minute ride, you are 32 minutes in at that point, plus there’s about a 2-5 minute ride from the BLADE jet terminal at JFK to the commercial terminals. You’re quickly whisked away in a black SUV, by the way.

a black suv parked on the side of a road

Total, all in transit time from the moment you leave a reasonably located hotel to the time you are curb side at the terminal is circa 35 minutes or less. It certainly won’t be longer, and I can’t ever recall getting between JFK and the front door of a city hotel in under 45 minutes, with plenty of 2 hour examples.

I don’t like arriving at the airport too early, so this certainty with timing is part of the justification to me.

For those going the other way and arriving at JFK bound for the city on Blade, this is among the most impressive part of the Blade operation.

The Blade team really does monitor your flight and proactively books you onto the best service based on the time of your arrival. You keep in touch via text upon landing to find your SUV and you are whisked away to the private jet terminal for the helicopter service.

a room with a chair and a table

The Blade Experience in a Nutshell

I got to the E34th BLADE Lounge 10 minutes before flight and was offered a complimentary drink from the impressive bar after a brief ID exchange. After a long night, I declined, and then chose to nerd out and stare at the helicopters.

The lounge receptionists were world class in making everyone feel welcome, informed and ready to go, and for $149 it felt extremely premium. The decor was fun and quirky and I really loved some of the vintage aviation touches.

Arriving at Blade, I was given a color coded wristband which was the boarding pass for each flight. My carry on was loaded on board in advance, and we were guided to the choppa (Arnold Schwarzenegger voice) at 5:19 for our 5:20 departure.

With seatbelts on, headsets on and thumbs up all around, Manhattan quickly began to look quite different. The views… holy s*it. For the photos alone, it’s probably worth it! For the the time efficiency and everything else, even more so.

One major thing to note: only standard hand luggage is included. You can bring a full sized carry on roller and a backpack, or any combination like that, but total baggage over 25lb will require an extra charge.

Lately, there’s been stronger enforcement of this 25lb total weight. For some, that might be a deterrent, but I’m one who aims to never check a bag – anywhere and I can usually keep my carry on rig of backpack and hard shell roller just under 20.

Oh, and booking.

I booked around 3PM for a 5:20PM flight, but that was cutting it close.

Most of the afternoon flights were sold out and by then it was slim pickings. With that said, you can book far in advance, or just minutes before, if there’s a seat. It’s all done in the app – more on that shortly. You’ll also see better pricing further out.

a bar with chairs and a television in the background
a plant in a room

If there was a hardship to be found in the experience – and surprise, there really isn’t one – it would simply be that you don’t know where to look, and it’s all over so quickly.

If I was really nitpicking, I’d beg BLADE to have their ground staff quickly wipe down the windows before each ride, because a lot of my best captures were mired by dirt. This has been improving lately, to be fair. It’s about as f’ing first world as problems get, but you know… when you want it all…

a view of the sun from a window of a plane

Playing devils advocate…

In absolutely supreme, 1AM or 5AM driving conditions, it’s not impossible to achieve similar timing in a car, but the thing is – it’s actually not that much cheaper for Uber, or particularly a black car service and it’s also nowhere near as fun.

Most people also don’t travel at those hours. As I mentioned, I knew quite a few people who experienced a 2.5 hour journey time at the same time I had a 7 minute transit.

If you’re looking to be frugal, the Long Island railroad option from Penn Station to Jamaica and then AirTrain to JFK is about 1 hour and 15 minutes with a cost of $12, which is by far the most frugal, but this is all about fun, not frugality.

a seat in a plane

Blade Airport: Should You Try It?

In a nutshell, I’d say yes.

I’ve felt incredibly efficient and privileged for the rest of the day when I fly Blade, and the BLADE experience turned my least favorite part of travel, the slow boring grind to the airport, into a novelty I won’t soon forget. Plus, the views of the place I grew up never hurt. Blade is also now in Europe, for what it’s worth.

With the current $149 pricing after using a promo code, it can be just fractionally more than an Uber, or on the level with Uber Black or private transfers. Obviously it’s not as practical if you are carpooling, but when it comes to choppers, YOLO rules apply.

BLADE is running this service between New York Airports and the city daily between 7AM-PPM during weekdays, and then 1:40PM-7PM on Sundays.

After downloading the app or booking at FlyBlade.com, using the BLADE promo code GilbertO187 (O, like Ott) will get you $50 off your first ride, and I’m grateful to also get $25 in future BLADE credit when you do.

I absolutely loved the service and now am stuck with the final question: cooler to take it into the city from the airport, or from the city to the airport?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Sounds really nice for one person, since they obviously charge per person, where three people in a taxi or Uber would work out to a lot less per person. What about charges for checked baggage?

    1. I just looked at this and no way can I justify the expense. I don’t live in NYC and rarely fly out of JFK. I need to fly with a checked bag and that is extra – they don’t post the cost. Very few flights are the $195. I checked multiple days and multiple times, at least 20, and came up with one at $195. The rest were $225- $245, and all were future dates. And that is the basic cost. If the flight has to be canceled due to weather, the balance IS REFUNDED in Blade credit only! That is useless to me, and totally unfair and not consumer friendly! This is only for wealthy people and business people with the company picking up the tab. I can’t see normal travelers using this.

      1. I think the important thing to qualify/clarify is defining “normal traveler” in New York. Very different pricing and transfer cost expectations than most markets.

  2. It sounds an amazing way to arrive at the airport 🙂. Is the promo code valid indefinitely as haven’t decided yet when we are going to New York?

  3. Why I wouldn’t fly Blade
    1. Harming the planet. One ride on Blade might be the equivalent of 3 million plastic bags. While, in some cities, we suffer when we buy food and forgot our reusable bag, one grocery store plastic bag won’t harm the planet but is still banned.

    2. I don’t want to die. Already one Blade helicopter crashed in NYC this year.

    3. Doesn’t save much time. If you had a charter helicopter that took off when you arrived at the heliport, different story.

    4. If you have almost no luggage, that is the best situation to use public transit. It’s when you have lots of luggage that taxi, Lyft, Uber, or shuttle is needed. Blade is only for those traveling light.

    I used to be wasteful, flying on helicopters to airports so I am guilty of killing the planet.

  4. Fly’s over neighborhoods at low altitude constantly in NY, though their website will show over water. They claim that they follow FAA rules which is believable but totally unethical for the millions of people who live below. I hope they get shut down soon.

  5. If cost were no object, I would probably take Blade every time – I laugh when people talk about the “earth” as a reason to deprive themselves or the rest of humanity of nice things in the same way people will refrain from doing things because of worries that it won’t please god. But I think the second best solution that it competes against for me is actually the Subway/AirTrain, which offers a reliable transfer to or from midtown of about 1.25 hours or downtown in 1.5 hours. Other than cost, the major downside of Airblade is that it adds another stop on the way to an airport, and therefore another point of stress, another 15 minutes or so of waiting for your “connection,” another taxi/Uber fare, and the need for another “time cushion” to make sure you don’t hit traffic on the way there. The Subway on the other hand is available to board anywhere and anytime, and if you are already near an E Train (or an A Train downtown) eliminates this issue entirely. In the end for me, I’d be saving only about 45 minutes vs. the Subway, and saving about $140 (with the Promo Code). It’s certainly much cooler to take a helicopter, but I find it hard to rationalize the delta in price given the real time savings after the extra connection and while the subway isn’t fun there is some joy in its brainless simplicity.

  6. Sorry for something that you may consider an off topic but what is absolutely nuts it’s that the most efficient way to take a flight is to take a helicopter to the airport 🙆🏻‍♂️

    This speaks about how cities and public transportation are planned in the US, or maybe it’s better to say not planned at all, compared to other places like Europe.

    As an example. In Madrid Airport, as you perfectly know, there are metro stations in every terminal. Which take you to anywhere in the city in a very modern, clean, safe, comfortable and accessible way.

    In T4, which is a top notch terminal, you even have a railway station that takes you to the very same center of Madrid in a non-stop 15 minutes ride. And it’s on its way the high speed train station, which will connect to the already stunning high speed network, that lets you go to some of the most important cities in Spain, like Barcelona or Sevilla.

    You will be able to land in Madrid and travel directly to Barcelona whitout increasing dramatically your carbon footprint (taking another flight) and without leaving the terminal, in a comfortable way.

    And event though I really criticize how some things are done in Europe and specifically in Spain I have to say that, regarding this matter, this is the way to go.

    1. Oh I totally agree with you on American urban planning. It’s an afterthought, which makes everything 10x harder. I adore Madrid, London and other cities where airport transit is a feature, not a bug. Stockholm might actually be my favorite, with the Arlanda Express just fabulously well thought out.

  7. How may passengers on your flight? Which side better for Manhattan skyine pictures? Assigned seats ? Middle seat passenger?

    1. Actually, now that the T1AirTrain Station is closed, you need to add 90 minutes to 2 hours more to the commute from Jamaica Station on to the time. I’ve had the misfortune of flying into or out of T1 three times this year – – its awful!

  8. So, I have a love hate relationship with Blade. First off they market these flight prices to and from JFK that actually don’t exist. They say prices start at $195 but I have not seen a $195 flight in over a year, since they raised their prices, their entry flight seems to be $225. Fine, still honestly worth it to avoid the hellish commute from Manhattan to JFK. But then here is where I have an issue. I fly Blade a lot. I feel like the experience at the lounge and the flight itself is super premium and just easy and lovely. My issue is anytime you have to deal with someone on the phone. To me it appears they have hired a lot of very young people who do not have proper customer experience training. This is a premium service where they have seemingly thought of everything, except how to service their customers who call in. So because I fly pretty regularly, I know the drill. I usually purchase a basic fare ticket at $225 because if you want a changeable ticket it’s even more $. I’m usually pretty thoughtful and don’t have issues. Now if you have over 25 lbs of luggage you also have to pay $175 for the extra luggage. So before you know it, the trip os $350. Still, if you need to get to the airport quickly, well it’s not too bad ( I think). But the reason I am writing this comment is just today I have a flight booked and my schedule changed and I can get on an earlier flight, which for me is preferable as I think the airport is gonna be a zoo. I call and have some person who feels like they are maybe 17 years old just reading me the same scripted response over and over again. Because I purchased a basic ticket I would forfeit the ticket if I wanted to get on the flight that is 40 minutes earlier. At any rate the net net is I asked to speak to a supervisor and that person said okay you can change it but it will cost you $95. I was like, really? Really? I fly all the time and never do I change and you cannot just waive it the one time. Nope. So honestly. I think I am done with them because if you can’t service your regular customers with any type of premium approach, what is the point?

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