Investment capital continues to pour into private jet and helicopter membership, card and sharing programs

 

Here it comes. Add Fly BLADE to JetSmarter, JetSuite, Stellar.aero, Victor, VistaJet and Wheels Up – the list of private jet card, online charter and by the seat private aviation companies that have raised over $500 million over the past 18 months. According to a press release, BLADE added “approximately $38 million” to its coffers via Series B Financing led by Colony NorthStar and Lerer Hippeau along with Airbus Helicopters and LionTree Ventures. 

 

The company has 22 core routes covering the New York City area, Eastern Long Island, the New Jersey Coast, Connecticut, Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and Orange County.

 

According to a press release, concurrent with the financing, the company enters an alliance with Airbus Helicopters to provide customer and helicopter operator technology solutions and on-the-ground customer experience management for the Airbus Ride helicopter service in the Dallas market.

 

Airbus Ride has operated for two years and will be co-branded with BLADE. Additionally, BLADE and Airbus will jointly explore launching an intra-city helicopter service in an international market to be determined this year. This jointly owned service will be BLADE’s first new market launch overseas.

 

The Company will use the proceeds from the financing to expand the depth of schedule for its core routes, accelerate the rollout of new markets, and to continue to fortify the BLADE brand.

 

“Airbus Helicopters continues to develop the future of the urban air mobility (UAM) market, and our alliance with BLADE is the next logical step in our quest to offer customers the full spectrum of urban air travel solutions,” said Matthieu Louvot, Executive Vice President of Customer Support and Services for Airbus Helicopters. “By partnering with BLADE, we are setting a strong foundation for the future, which will be the successful deployment of electronic vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) systems.”

 

“BLADE has created a very desirable and highly recognized brand by offering a compelling aviation experience to a new generation of fliers–and its world-class booking platform and strong aviation operator technologies remain unmatched. We look forward to the team continuing to build upon their success in new markets both in the U.S. and abroad.”, said Eric Hippeau, Managing Partner of Lerer Hippeau.

Justin Chang, Managing Director, Colony NorthStar added, “Given Colony’s strong real estate expertise, as well as its Los Angeles headquarters location, we look forward to working with the BLADE Team on expanding their West Coast presence as well as helping to identify future landing zones for both helicopters and next-generation eVTOL aircraft.”

 

In addition to single engine, twin-engine, and cabin class helicopters, BLADE also utilizes amphibious seaplanes, turboprops, and jet aircraft for certain routes. Blade’s accessible fleet includes aircraft from 29 operators across the U.S. Blade neither owns nor operates aircraft.

 

Additionally, the company is now in its third year offering seasonal scheduled jet service between New York and Miami, Florida. The BLADEone jet service, which utilizes a 16 person jet (retrofitted from 65-passenger commercial use), is harmonized with helicopter flights to enable passengers to depart from or arrive directly in Manhattan rather than an area airport.

 

The company’s BLADE Bounce airport transfer product has enabled BLADE to become the largest arranger of helicopter flights between Manhattan and all New York area airports. BLADE’S large network of operators enables fliers to arrange a Bounce helicopter flight and depart in as little as 20 minutes from booking. Single seats on daily flights from Manhattan to area airports start at $195. This unique service transforms a near 2-hour drive into a 5-minute flight. Through BLADE’s alliance with Delta Airlines, passengers flying Delta to JFK or LAX can deplane directly from the jetway on to the tarmac where they are transferred by car to an awaiting helicopter for a short trip to the city center–avoiding ever stepping foot into a commercial airline terminal altogether.

 

BLADE was co-founded by CEO Rob Wiesenthal and Steve Martocci, founder of group messaging platform GroupMe, in 2014. Wiesenthal is the former CFO of Sony Corporation of America and, most recently, COO of Warner Music Group.

The company’s original investors include David Zaslav, Chairman and CEO of Discovery Networks, Kenneth Lerer, Managing Partner of Lerer Hippeau (and Chairman of Blade), Barry Diller, Chairman and Senior Executive of IAC, Inc., and Eric Schmidt, Former Chairman of Alphabet, Inc. (formerly Google, Inc.), and the RAINE Group, according to information provided by the company.

About the Author Doug Gollan

I am Founder and Editor of Private Jet Card Comparisons, the only independent buyer's guide to jet card membership programs, and DG Amazing Experiences, a weekly luxury travel e-newsletter for private jet owners. I am also a contributor to Forbes.com