Flexjet is making a big push into helicopters with the launch of Flexjet Private Helicopter. The initiative indicates traditional helicopters will be around for a while. Parent Directional Aviation ordered up to 200 eVTOLs from Eve last year.
The move by Flexjet is significant. It brings together a brand strategy following Directional’s purchase last year of helicopter operators Association Aircraft Group in the U.S. and Halo Aviation in the U.K.
While initial moves seemed to indicate a transitional strategy to eVTOLs under the Halo banner, Flexjet is now focusing on traditional helicopters with fractional share and lease options, targeting synergy with Flexjet’s customer base of private jet fractional ownership and leases. The contracts run 24 to 60 months.
Directional chairman Kenn Ricci previously outlined a 15-year vision for urban mobility. Until the eVTOLs come online, beginning in 2026, Directional will integrate the helicopter services into its current offerings. Then, during the next five years, eVTOLs will go into service, flying similar missions.
“Flexjet’s new helicopter division enhances our position as the leader in combining fixed-wing operations and private urban mobility in the U.S. This distinguishes us as the only operator in our industry to offer seamless travel,” said Flexjet Chief Executive Officer Michael Silvestro. “Today, more and more travelers are seeking an alternative to crowded forms of transportation – opting instead for easier, safer, and less stressful options from beginning to end. In addition, this enhanced segment of the Flexjet experience allows our clients to become even more productive with their time.”
The offerings from Flexjet Private Helicopter will serve as a last-mile guaranteed availability, fixed-priced solutions for jet to home or heliport. According to Directional veteran and newly appointed Helicopter Division President Eli Flint, it will also enable customers to fly more efficiently regionally.
He envisions customers using their shares and leases to fly from their backyards of the New York City suburbs on regional business trips to a meeting in Boston or Philadelphia and back. The same would be true for hopping from home in Connecticut to the Hamptons or from Manhattan to Duchess County.
Private jets are often inefficient for these trips, with daily minimums ranging from 60-to-120 minutes for 30-minute flights. While they save time over driving, there still is the time getting to and from airports.
Flint says there are numerous examples of current Flexjet customers where the closest private airport to a lake house or favorite golf course can still be an hour’s drive.
Flexjet will sell helicopter shares like private jets. Fractional shares start at 1/16th. However, they are based on 400 hours per year, so you are buying 25 hours of flight time. Fixed-wing shares are based on 800 hours per year.
Daily Minimums for helicopters are 24 minutes for airport transfers and 30 minutes for other missions, including six minutes of taxi time.
The entry-level for a 1/16th share is about $200,000 acquisition on the Sikorsky S-76 that is being featured.
The monthly management fee is $12,000. Flexjet share owners get a 10% discount on management, similar to if they have two shares. Occupied hours within the primary service area are billed at $2,750 per hour, plus fuel which is currently running around $900 per hour.
Repositioning fees for flights outside of the PSA are 70% of the hourly rate.
Flint says the all-in hourly rate comes out to around $9,500 per hour. That includes management and acquisition cost.
Guaranteed availability is 24 hours’ notice. Typical peak days are Thursday, Friday, and Sunday afternoons, where there will be a +/- one hour slide time for departures.
Flint says Flexjet is working out “hot transfers.” That’s where you go from jet to helicopter and vice versa on the tarmac in minutes.
“We saw customers taking a one-or two-hour flight on their jets and then spending an hour or more in traffic. From Teterboro to the Westside Heliport by helicopter in Manhattan is six minutes.”
Flexjet Gulfstream G650 customers will get an allotment of complimentary transfers.
Flint says the goal is to have preferred pricing for customers of Sentient Jet, FXAir, and PrivateFly in Europe in the future.
The helicopters will also be available for on-demand charters.
Last year FXAir offered Manhattan to the Hamptons/Montauk passes. However, that was a former AAG product and is no longer being offered.
The initial focus is New York with Miami and London coming imminently. Miami flights will initially be seasonal starting around Thanksgiving.
There are currently about a dozen helicopters in the fleet and Flexjet is in the process of acquiring more. Flint says he believes there is significant room for growth, although he decline to offer specifics.
Shares and leases are based on the Sikorsky S-76. There are currently six and seven-seat configurations, but all will be upgraded to seven seats.
S-76s have 38 cubic feet of baggage space. There is also a runner service for luggage that can’t fit in the helicopter.
The fleet is currently being refurbished to Flexjet’s Red Label standards, with all-new interiors. Flexjet will use two pilots. The aircraft can fly at 155 knots per hour and has a range of 300 nautical miles.
Key safety elements include:
Flint tells Private Jet Card Comparisons the focus on the helicopters is compatible with the commitment to eVTOLs. First-generation eVTOLs are expected to have less range, baggage, and passenger capacity, making them more suitable for different missions than the Sikorsky fleet.
In the meantime, Flexjet will look to leverage its rotorcraft focus as a differentiator in wooing frequent private flyers.
Directional will continue to expands its helicopter management business in the U.K. under the Halo banner. Flexjet Helicopter will act as the sales arm for shares, leases, and on-demand charter.
Flexjet has aims to triple its fractional fixed-wing fleet in Europe after debuting its offer in late 2020.
The provider has been informally reaching out to current fractional and lease customers to share the news of its new rotorcraft offerings.
A formal announcement for its helicopter division and programs is expected in the next few days.