Helicopter ride-sharing app to beat gridlock in Manila


MANILA • A new start-up may have the answer for cashed-up travellers desperate to beat the gridlock in the mega cities of South-East Asia — helicopter ride-sharing.

Ascent Flights Global Pte Ltd is starting the service in the Philippines next week and plans to expand to Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia by next year.

The Singapore-based firm lets customers book a seat on a helicopter online for flights during the morning and afternoon rush hours. Targeting executives and luxury travellers, the choppers fly to the Makati and Taguig City central business districts, as well as airports in Manila and Clark north of the capital.

The shortest flight between the two business districts cuts travel time from half an hour to three minutes, with seats going for 6,900 pesos (RM542.58) each. The longest flight between the two airports will cost 25,900 pesos for a 30-minute trip that usually takes three hours. Local charter business INAEC Aviation Corp is proving the helicopters and pilots.

“We believe the cost of time is different for those who are t ime-sensitive,” Ascent founder and former Airbus Helicopters executive Lionel Sinai-Sinelnikoff said at a briefing in Manila yesterday. If its Manila venture succeeds, Ascent wants to start services in Bangkok, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur in 2020, and then cities in China and Japan. The start-up is looking to raise another US$3 million (RM12.24 million) to US$5 million over the next two years to fund regional expansion. — Bloomberg