Blade Air Mobility is acquiring exclusive booking rights for Helijet’s scheduled helicopter airline service in Canada, with the long-term goal of introducing eVTOL or electric vertical aircraft (EVA) to key markets in British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
New York-based Blade is paying Vancouver’s Helijet US$12 million for rights to offer scheduled helicopter flights operated by Helijet and to use passenger terminals at heliports controlled by Pacific Heliport Services (PHS), a wholly owned subsidiary of Helijet.
According to Helijet, Blade is not acquiring any shares or ownership in the longtime helicopter operator, but will have the right to acquire up to 49% — the maximum permitted to a foreign owner — of PHS, which manages and operates heliport waterfront terminals in Vancouver, Victoria, and Nanaimo, British Columbia.
“The addition of Helijet’s scheduled passenger business will make Blade the largest urban air mobility service in North America,” Blade CEO Rob Wiesenthal stated in a press release. Helijet’s scheduled helicopter airline service reportedly generated around US$15 million in revenues from approximately 100,000 passengers in 2019. While the company is currently down around 50% from its pre-COVID tempo, it said that “traffic is recovering quickly as Canada continues its pandemic reopening.”
Helijet was one of the first helicopter operators to openly embrace the prospect of transitioning to eVTOL aircraft. According to Helijet president Danny Sitnam, “Blade and Helijet are partnering to ensure our combined leadership in the early adoption of EVA on existing routes in British Columbia, as well as on the new services Blade may launch in the future.”
These may include cross-border flights between Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, and other locations along the Pacific Northwest’s Cascadia corridor. Such routes could be served initially by helicopters, but eventually by EVA like the six-seat Alia. Blade earlier this year ordered up to 20 of the multipurpose, fully electric aircraft from manufacturer Beta Technologies.
“EVA will make urban air mobility more efficient, more sustainable, and more affordable,” Sitnam stated. “In Blade, we have found a unique partner that shares our commitment to customer service and experience, safety, and innovation.”
For the time being, Helijet will continue its current operations as usual, while Blade works behind the scenes to integrate its booking and sales technologies. “For our customers, Helijet’s integration with Blade’s platform will be seamless over the coming months and will provide new booking technology features as part of Blade’s dynamic offerings,” Sitnam said.
Blade will also invest in Helijet’s passenger terminals in Vancouver, Victoria, and Nanaimo, including through the installation of electric charging capabilities at each location to support the future introduction of EVA. Even as the companies explore potential new routes, Blade president Melissa Tomkiel suggested that these established markets still have considerable potential for growth.
“In 2019, over two million people traveled between key Helijet destinations using ground and ferry transportation, which can take more than three hours longer than Helijet flights,” she stated. “Our transition to lower-cost, quiet, and emission-free EVA should only serve to increase the number of passengers that travel between these locations by air and the value proposition to our fliers.”
The agreement between Blade and Helijet has an initial term through 2026 and will be automatically renewed for successive two-year periods, the companies said.