If you're flying American Airlines to or from New York City or Los Angeles, you can now skip traffic and take helicopter rides to and from the airport — if you're willing to pay the price.
American Airlines is partnering with Blade, an on-demand helicopter, seaplane, and private jet booking service, to offer helicopter transportation to and from both Los Angeles International Airport and New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
With Blade transportation, customers will be transported via helicopter from the Blade launch pad of their choice in their city of departure and flown to either LAX or JFK. There, they will be greeted by an airline team member who will escort them to American Airlines' Flagship First Check-In in a Cadillac.
Blade charters are available to customers flying on any American Airlines flight, though customers will need to be able to book a full plane (up to six seats) at the moment to get the service. The airline is looking into possibly adding single ride options down the line.
“The No. 1 pain point of traveling from New York City and Los Angeles to the airports is traffic; our Blade airport transfer product turns an hour-and-a-half drive into a helicopter flight that’s five to seven minutes,” Blade CEO and founder Rob Wiesenthal said in a statement.
Customers who book a charter through the Blade app will pay an additional $350 to take advantage of the five-star service amenities offered by American Airlines, including both the check-in transfer and access to the Admirals Club, Flagship Lounge, and Flagship First Dining.
Travelers currently have two options to choose from when it comes to the Blade and American Airlines combined service.
They can book an on-demand charter (which can be booked up to 20 minutes before departure) and costs a total of $1,250 for the entire aircraft one-way, in addition to $350 per person to add on American Airlines’ service for the airport transfer portion.
They can also opt for a charter (for trips booked anytime up to 72 hours before departure) for $695, plus an additional $195 per each additional seat needed on the six-seater aircraft and $350 per person for American Airlines’ added service. For this reason, if travelers are with a large group, it may be more affordable to take the on-demand charter option.
In addition to the cost, some critics are also concerned over the noise and pollution frequent helicopter rides could cause.
"People who fly in helicopters to the airport are putting their convenience, the few minutes of time savings, over the happiness and health of millions of their neighbors,” former New York City Parks commissioner Adrian Benepe told Fast Company.
If a helicopter isn't your thing but you still have money to spend on pre-flight pampering, another option for customers traveling in premium cabins is to take advantage of private terminal entrance and security screenings through The Private Suite at LAX.
The Private Suite service includes Cadillac escort across the tarmac straight to the gate or to the Flagship Lounge and Flagship First Dining. It also lets travelers get through international customs in less than five minutes thanks to its own dedicated international arrivals hall. The offering is available as part of American's expanded Five Star service, and starts at $1,200 for up to two guests.
In addition to its current Five Star Service, American Airlines is also introducing the new Five Star Select service, which starts at $650 per person and comes with amenities that include access to the airline’s Flagship First Check-In, Flagship First Dining and Lounge, personal escort through all available airports, priority boarding, and car service coordination.