Helicopter sharing business will let the wealthy rise above Manila’s gridlock

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helicopter
Photograph from the Ascent website.

A startup business is offering an alternative to the gridlocked streets of the Philippines — a helicopter ride-sharing service.

Ascent Flights Global is launching its business in the Philippines next week and plans to expand to Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia next year.

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The Singapore-based company lets customers book online for helicopter flights during the morning and afternoon rush hours. 

Its choppers will fly to the Makati and Taguig City central business districts, as well as airports in Manila and Clark. It is also offering flights to the cool uplands of Tagaytay.

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 each. The longest flight between the two airports will cost 25,900 pesos for a 30-minute trip that would usually take at least three hours. 

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Helicopter charter firm Inaec Aviation is providing the helicopters and pilots.

“We believe the cost of time is different for those who are time-sensitive,” Ascent founder and former Airbus Helicopters executive Lionel Sinai-Sinelnikoff said during a media briefing in Manila today (Wednesday, April 3).

If the business takes off in the Philippines, Ascent plans to start services in Bangkok, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur in 2020, and then expand to cities in China and Japan. The startup, backed by venture capital company Reapra, is looking to raise another $3m-$5m over the next two years to fund regional expansion.

Similar chopper sharing schemes have been proposed in the past by ride-sharing firms Uber and Grab, but in both cases the proposals appear to have been quietly dropped.

The helicopter routes and prices, according to the Ascent website:

NAIA to SM North EDSA in Quezon City and vice versa

Travel time: 15 minutes

Price: PHP10,900 (US$209.12)

NAIA to the Peninsula Manila Hotel in Makati City and vice versa

Travel time: 10 minutes

Price: PHP7,900 (US$170.75)

NAIA to V&A Law Center in Bonifacio Global City and vice versa

Travel time: 10 minutes

Price: PHP8,900 (US$170.89)

NAIA to INAEC Clark Hangar in Clark, Pampanga

Travel time: 30 minutes

Price: PHP25,900 (US$496.90)

SM North EDSA in Quezon City to V&A Law Center in Bonifacio Global City and vice versa

Travel time: 12 minutes

Price: PHP9,900 (US$189.90)

Peninsula Manila Hotel in Makati City to V&A Law Center in Bonifacio Global City and vice versa

Travel time: 7 minutes

Price: PHP6,900 (US$132.36)

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