- Blade is a transportation startup that offers on-demand flights to destinations like the Hamptons.
- It just raised an additional $US38 million in venture funding.
- We took a helicopter ride with Blade in 2015 – here’s what it was like.
Getting to the Hamptons can be a real drag. Blade, an aviation startup cofounded by former Sony and Warner Music Group exec Rob Wiesenthal and GroupMe cofounder Steve Martocci, aims to make it a little easier on you.
Blade uses an app to crowdsource flights on helicopters and seaplanes that you can book seats on in an instant. Though Blade started out with flights to the Hamptons, which remains one of its most popular destinations, the startup has expanded to offer flights in many weekend getaway spots, including Nantucket, the Jersey Shore, and around different parts of Los Angeles.
Tickets range from $US494 to $US695 for a trip from Manhattan to the Hamptons. A one-way ticket on Blade One, the company’s private jet service from New York to Miami and Palm Beach, costs about $US2,200. You can even snag a seat on a helicopter going to one of the New York area airports, a five-minute ride called Blade Bounce that starts at $US195.
According to a press release from the company, the new funding will go towards expanding Blade’s routes. Blade and Airbus will partner to launch an intra-city helicopter service in a to-be-determined market overseas. Blade added that Colony will be helping to identify future potential landing sites for eVTOLs, or flying taxis, which both companies see as an important foundation for future transportation initiatives.
Blade has raised $US60 million in venture funding to date, the company said. Past investors include Discovery Communications’ David Zaslav, Google’s Eric Schmidt, IAC’s Barry Diller, and iHeart Media’s Bob Pittman.
Blade treated us to a trip to the Hamptons on a late summer evening in 2015. Here’s what it was like:
Our journey began in Blade’s 34th Street lounge, where we found a comfortable setup of couches and stools along a sleek bar. “You can’t beat the on-demand aspect,” Jarrett, a Blade customer who works in Manhattan real estate, told me. Blade has a network of seven lounges in four states.
Customer experience (or C/X in Blade lingo) representatives Jessica Rooney and Erin Mulcahy were there to help. They’re wearing uniforms that were custom designed by Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon just for Blade.
The C/X team has worn several different retro-inspired uniforms. “My inspiration for Blade harkens back to the days when I was a young child and my parents would dress me up to get on a plane,” Wiesenthal, Blade’s cofounder and CEO, said to Business Insider in 2016.
He added: “It was the golden age of aviation – the ’60s to early ’70’s, the Jack Kennedy, Frank Sinatra era – when getting on a jet plane was a big deal and an adventure. Not everybody did it. And there was always a story attached to it.”
Once you check in, you’ll get a wristband that corresponds to your flight.
You’ll also get a luggage tag to match the wristband. As you might expect, the bags on the rack in the Blade lounge were a little more high-end than what you might find at your standard transit depot.
After you’re all checked in, guests are encouraged to mosey on over to the bar for a drink.
The Blade drink of choice is a rosé. So that you don’t have to worry about spilling during your flight, Blade serves the rosé in a specialty sippy cup. “When we first launched Blade, we weren’t sure about the availability of helicopters from our operators,” Wiesenthal said. “To protect ourselves from delays, and to keep down the nerves of our customers, we started serving rosé.”
Many of the lounge’s decorations are reminiscent of the ’60s and ’70s.
Wiesenthal’s entertainment background obviously played a big role in his founding of Blade. “We’re trying to make an emotional connection to the consumer,” he said. Here he is with Alena Martanovicova (left) and Rooney (right), members of the C/X team.
As we relaxed in the lounge, we could see passengers boarding helicopters just outside the window. The reason Blade is able to offer so many on-demand flights is that the platform supports routes from different operators. One of those operators is Liberty Helicopter, which you can see here. Blade itself does not own any helicopters.
In addition to its helicopters, Blade has added several seaplanes to its contracted fleet.
This small card with my name on it guaranteed me a spot on the 4:30 flight to East Hampton.
As we prepared for takeoff, the choppy waters of the East River rocked the seaplane back and forth.
But once we were airborne, we were treated to this incredible view.
It only took us about 35 minutes to get to East Hampton on the seaplane, and we had incredible views the whole way. The flight can take as little as 27 minutes on Blade’s Sikorski helicopters.
But once we were seeing estates with their own swimming pools and tennis courts, we knew we were getting close.
As we waited at the East Hampton Airport, more and more Blade-branded flights continued to touch down on the tarmac. Since I took my flight, Blade has added services to a whole slew of destinations, including Nantucket, the Jersey Shore, Los Angeles, Newport, Atlantic City, and Litchfield County, Connecticut.
The company has also in the past entered partnerships for special events like Coachella.
A partnership with Delta allows passengers flying between JFK and LAX on that airline to deplane directly from the jetway to the tarmac, where a Blade helicopter awaits.
As we made our way back to the city by chopper, I wondered what it would be like to do this every weekend.
I’m far from owning a house in the Hamptons, but I could see why someone with much more disposable income would prefer this glamorous experience to hours sitting in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.
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