As the state with some of the longest commutes, New Yorkers deal with crowded buses, trains, and highways every day to get to work. But what if you could avoid those setbacks all together, and cut your commute down to, oh, say, a few minutes? It might sound like a fantasy, but that’s exactly what Helicopter charter service Gotham Air wants to make a reality.
Gotham Air has been providing service from JFK and Newark since its launch in January, but the company recently announced a new service between White Plains and Wall Street. Not only that, shared and private charter flights to the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard, and Washington, DC—to name a few locations—are being offered.
“We want to give people back a meaningful amount of time in their life. How many times has someone said they want more hours in a week? Now we can give it to them,” said Gotham Air CEO Tim Hayes. “I missed putting my kids to bed one time too many because of the commute. That is really why we started this.”
Commuter helicopters aren’t new to the New York metropolitan area. Helicopters have been taking commuters between the city and as far away as Connecticut’s Litchfield and New Haven counties since the 1960s, with lulls in popularity that correspond with economic recession. But the appeal is still there—sitting on a crowded train or in traffic for upwards of an hour versus a relatively quick helicopter ride? To some New Yorkers, especially in Westchester, cutting the commute down to 17 minutes might sound too good to be true.
Gotham Air has already made waves as the only helicopter shuttle service that allows customers to book single seats rather than a whole chopper. In March, the company made headlines again with their app (first-time users are still treated to a discounted flight), which lends some credibility to commentators calling Gotham Air the “Uber of helicopters.”
Hayes has a slightly different take on the Uber comparison, though: “The closer comparison in technology is ‘UberPool,’ which lets people share a car. Gotham Air brings people together to share a helicopter, and, in doing so, they can divide the cost among many seats. That brings the price to fly within the reach of many people.” Hayes mentioned the fact that Uber is still working some kinks out of their service after a slew of legal issues in the last year, and that Gotham Air is taking cues from Uber on how to scale their operations.
Another issue Gotham Air must pay attention to is safety. Fear of flying is common, but Hayes assures customers that helicopter travel is safe. “We recently met with the State Department to begin servicing state leaders who demand the highest levels of safety,” he said. “If someone ever read a story that put helicopter safety into question in recent times they would be confusing different types of flying. High-risk flights usually involve military or search-and-rescue”
In a statement, Hayes said Gotham Air will focus on, “putting our guests in superior aircraft for a noticeably faster, smoother, quieter ride with windows that are three times larger than most helicopters’…Gotham Air guests can go from zero to 140 miles per hour in the blink of an eye while all-new technology from [Bell Helicopter] drastically cuts down on the sound.”
So what’s next for Gotham Air? Hayes thinks the potential is there to reach beyond the luxury market, and with more customers and different levels of aircraft (think Mercedes C-class versus S-class), he estimates prices will come down. “We would love to see a $99 ticket in two years,” he said. “If history can be any lesson, we expect a lot of people to be regulars.”
Not only that, but other cities are taking note, as well. “We have received a lot of interesting requests from places as far away as San Francisco to Tokyo. They are interesting markets to explore, but our priority is to help improve the lives of our customers in New York.”
Gotham Air Destination Expansion Routes
These routes will launch Memorial Day weekend (May 21) and reservations are already available
East Hampton – pricing starts at $575
Montauk – pricing starts at $625
Southampton – pricing starts at $525
Westchester – pricing starts at $188
Martha’s Vineyard – pricing starts at $1,049
Nantucket – pricing starts at $1,199
Provincetown – pricing starts at $1,239
Atlantic City – pricing starts at $575
Belmar – pricing starts at $179
Morristown – pricing starts at $145
Washington, DC – pricing starts at $1,149
Correction: An earlier version of this article and associated social media posts indicated that the Westchester-to-Manhattan flight route offered by Gotham Air would take only six minutes to complete. According to Gotham Air, the trip is more likely to take around 17 minutes.