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?
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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?