Blade Air Mobility has acquired exclusive rights to offer scheduled helicopter flights operated by Helijet in Canada and across the US Pacific Northwest region, with plans to incorporate eVTOL aircraft on routes.
The company will also utilise passenger terminals at heliports controlled by Pacific Heliport Services, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Helijet and operates and manages heliport infrastructure in Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo, British Colombia.
Blade will pay Helijet $12 million to secure the rights for the routes, with Helijet to operate Blade flights on existing and jointly developed routes, including cross-country journeys. The agreement has an initial term through to 2026 and will be automatically renewed for successive two-year periods.
Rob Wiesenthal, Chief Executive Officer of Blade, said: “The addition of Helijet’s scheduled passenger business will make Blade the largest Urban Air Mobility service in North America. Helijet, which has safely flown more than 2.5 million passengers over three decades of flying in Canada, will continue to own and operate all Blade-designated aircraft in Canada and the U.S. Pacific Northwest.”
Melissa Tomkiel, President of Blade, added: “This acquisition is a perfect fit with Blade’s mission to eliminate travel friction around the world. In 2019, over 2 million people traveled between key Helijet destinations using ground and ferry transportation, which can take more than three hours longer than Helijet flights.
“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.”
This acquisition is consistent with Blade’s asset-light model, where the Company organically creates, or in this case purchases, valuable routes on which by-the-seat helicopter services have a strong value proposition compared to cars and other forms of transport, and contracts with incumbent aircraft operators to fly on its behalf.
Helijet is currently operating at an annualised run-rate of about 50 per cent of its pre-pandemic revenues of approximately US$15 million. However, traffic is recovering quickly as Canada continues its pandemic re-opening
While Blade is not acquiring any shares or ownership in Helijet, it will have the right to acquire up to 49 per cent of Pacific Heliport Services. Helijet will continue to operate its current routes as usual, with Blade integrating its booking and sales technologies to achieve greater reach into Helijet’s existing and future route network.
Together, both companies are currently reviewing new routes to serve Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and other locations along the Pacific Northwest’s Cascadia corridor. At the same time, aircraft fleet, booking and sales systems, and flier experience upgrades are already on the drawing board.
Danny Sitnam, President of Helijet, said: “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 EVA technologies are going to change aviation in the same way that the jet engine revolutionized air travel 60 years ago.
“EVA will make Urban Air Mobility more efficient, more sustainable and more affordable. In Blade, we have found a unique partner that shares our commitment to customer service and experience, safety and innovation.”
“The transaction gives Blade access to passenger terminals at conveniently located heliports in Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo. This infrastructure is essential to offer Urban Air Mobility solutions at scale,” noted Will Heyburn, Chief Financial Officer of Blade. “Blade intends to make investments in electric charging infrastructure at each location in order to support the future introduction of EVA, while continuing to grow our offering of affordable flights using conventional helicopters today.”