In Chicago, passengers will soon be able to book regular helicopter flights from the 6-year-old facility in the Illinois Medical District to O’Hare and other destinations for the cost of an Uber Black — getting there in less than half the time, Blade CEO Rob Wiesenthal said.
“We fly people by the seat to various destinations, including suburbs on a commuter basis or to airports, and turn a two-hour drive into a five-minute flight,” Wiesenthal said.
Other possible destinations include Lake Geneva, Wisconsin; the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana; and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The company, which doesn’t own helicopters, has partnered with an operator to station aircraft for passenger use at Vertiport. The helicopters seat six, with passengers booked for each flight by Blade. Prices for Chicago have not been set, but run about $95 per person for airport flights in New York, Wiesenthal said.
Blade will be the exclusive provider of passenger helicopter service by the seat at the facility, which will be rebranded Vertiport Chicago Powered by Blade. The company will also have the right to build a branded terminal at the 10-acre heliport on South Wood Street.
Founded in 2014, Blade has established helicopter air taxi service in New York, Miami and India. In 2019, Blade began offering regular helicopter flights to all three major airports serving New York City, operating at a rate of 20,000 passengers annually by the end of the year, Wiesenthal said.
Blade, which is planning to go public this year through a special purpose acquisition company, generated $33 million in revenue during 2019, Wiesenthal said. Traffic counts and revenue were down in 2020 because of the pandemic, but in an investor presentation, the company projects $875 million in annual revenue by 2026.