VIP helicopters feature in latest edition of CJIQ


VIP helicopters star in the latest edition of our sister title Corporate Jet Investor Quarterly.

VIP helicopter services feature in the latest edition of our sister title Corporate Jet Investor Quarterly (CJIQ). We talk to operators on both sides of the Atlantic to understand why helicopter transfers are not proving as popular as they could be with VIP travellers.

Some reluctance to use rotary services is acknowledged by Francesco Lazzarini, chief operating officer HeliFlite. But as road traffic becomes ever more congested, the argument for VIP helicopter transport becomes ever more compelling, he told us. “The helicopter is a magic carpet – once you try it, it becomes very addictive,” said Lazzarini. “If we are able to inject that needle [of VIP heli flights] people do get addicted. It has worked for us.” The North American operator flies a fleet of Sikorsky S-76, Leonardo AW139 and Bell 429 aircraft.

Will Fanshawe, MD, Flexjet Helicopters said: “Some clients still think helicopters are an unexplained phenonmena operated by magic.” But many are reassured after learning more. “When passengers see it’s a Flexjet-operated aircraft with twin-engines, two qualified crew, wearing the same uniforms as the jet they have just left, and operated to the same standards as corporate jets and airlines, they say: ‘That’s good for me,’” said Fanshawe. “We have seen people who have never flown before, burning through a year’s worth of hours in a month – it’s that addictive.”

Complimentary flights

Flexjet clients who travel by Gulfstream G650  are offered a complimentary rotary shuttle service on both sides of the Atlantic. G650 passengers arriving at New York airports are invited to board free helicopter flights to Manhattan. Complimentary flights are also offered to G650 clients flying from Farnborough Airport, UK to London Heliport, near central London. They qualify too for free helicopter flights to their departure airport.

Both Flexjet and HeliFlite report steady growth in demand for helicopter flights. The helicopter shuttle-jet flights are proving popular be[1]cause of the time they save, according to Fanshaw at Flexjet. “On a typical Manhattan to Mayfair flight, helicopter transfers can save about 25% on clients’ journey times.”

UK operator Castle Air also reports long-term growth for its services. The charter company, which also offers sales and leasing, engineering and flight training, operates a six-minute helicopter shuttle service from London Biggin Hill Airport to London Heliport, located close to central London. “Demand for VIP helicopter flights is probably growing at about 15% a year,” says Michael Jupp, senior pilot at Castle Air, London Biggin Hill told us. “It’s picking up year-after-year, as clients realise they can get off their private jet at Biggin Hill and get onto a AW109 twin engine helicopter for a six-minute flight to central London.” (Last December, Helicopter Investor joined the first Heli Shuttle service powered by Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) in a AW109S operated Castle Air).

‘Huge demand emerging’

Further south, from its base in Monaco on the Mediterranean coast, Blueberry Aviation is well placed to take the temperature of the VIP helicopter sector. François Gautier, founder and CEO of the helicopter and commercial aircraft company, told us: “Since the end of the Covid crisis we have seen huge demand emerging for VIP helicopters which has not waned since.”

The rising number of high-net worth individuals is a key factor. “More helicopters are being bought but moreover, the customer base is growing with more and more individuals accessing high spending power,” said Gautier. “As an example, 573 new billionaires emerged between 2020 and 2022. These individuals aspire to access the effort-free lifestyle of which helicopters are an important element.”

The only limit to the VIP market growth is aircraft availability, he said. “The lack of new assets is a real curb to the market, only partially compensated by the pre-owned market.”

Read our VIP helicopter feature ‘Riding the magic carpet’ here. Also featuring the latest edition of CJIQ are a profile of aviation fuel company Avfuel, a photographic tour of the new BBJ Select business liner and our latest business jet connectivity research. You can read the digital version of Corporate Jet Investor Quarterly here and sign up for your free print copy here. Plus, if you know colleagues who might enjoy reading our business aviation insights, please share these links. Thank you.