TAKING OFF
Hotelier India|November 2021
Short-haul helicopter service is uplifting pilgrimage and leisure travel - offering convenience, comfort and access to hard-to-reach destinations.
PRANITA BHOSALE

When Pune International Airport’s runway was closed for re-carpeting, and operations of commercial flights were suspended in October, many travellers were caught by surprise. It suddenly threw all their holiday and business travel plans into disarray.

Or did it?

Mumbai-based advertising professional Sakshi Agarwal and her banker husband had planned a week-long workcation to Pune and Aamby Valley. The duo simply booked seats on Blade India instead of cancelling their trip. This urban air mobility (UAM) company offers daily scheduled-by-the seat helicopter services between Mumbai and Pune, just saving the couple's vacation.

Its flights take off from Mumbai’s Juhu Aerodrome and land at its vertiport in Kharadi within 40 minutes, offering travellers an alternate option to commercial flights. Is it any surprise then that there are an increasing number of takers for UAM services?

In case you are still wondering why, let’s do some number crunching. Around 65 Indian cities have an aggregate population of 165 million and road congestion is only expected to worsen as urbanisation increases. The country has 22 cars per 1000 people as compared to 850 in the UK. As cities become increasingly overcrowded, innovative vertical mobility and infrastructure solutions are the need of the hour.

ZIP, ZAP, ZOOM

UAM services have existed in India for a long time – visitors to religious places like J&K’s Mata Vaishno Devi Temple often take helicopter rides to visit the main shrine. Change in lifestyle and preferences due to COV- ID-19 only exacerbated this need.

Last year, the Uttarakhand state government flagged-off a helicopter service on the Dehradun-New Tehri-Srinagar-Gauchar route under the ‘Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik Regional Connectivity Scheme (UDAN-RCS) scheme. Pawan Hans operates these low-cost helicopter services, which can be availed by people three times a week.

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