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Ride-hailing firm Grab tries again to launch helicopter service

Grab is making another attempt to bring a cut-price helicopter service to a Southeast Asian city

Well-heeled Indonesian travellers may soon be able to escape Jakarta’s notorious traffic jams by using their smartphones to hail a helicopter.

Ride-hailing firm Grab, which also operates in the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam is preparing for a trial run of GrabHeli next weekend.

A similar scheme was announced for Manila in late 2015, but after an initial blaze of publicity the scheme was apparently quietly dropped.

Mediko Azwar, Grab Indonesia’s marketing director, said the company was “exploring the possibility” of launching GrabHeli on a commercial basis in Jakarta and a feasibility study was now being carried out.

“We see that the public need is there, there are executives who need to move from one point to another in a short period of time,” he explained.

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The plan is still in the early stages, and Mr Azwar did not give any details about potential pricing.

Just like in Manila, Jakarta’s traffic is a major headache for businesspeople seeking to dash between meetings — often forcing appointments to be postponed or cancelled.

Grab is not the first company to experiment with a helicopter service — in 2015, Uber announced an “UberChopper” service for Manila, but it again, it seems to have been quietly dropped.

The Singapore-headquartered firm’s core product platform includes private cars, motorbikes and taxi-hailing services which are rapidly gaining popularity in a region that is home to more than 600 million people with an ever-expanding middle class.