By N. LOTHUNGBENI HUMTSOE
Urbanization is on the rise throughout the nation, which has raised traffic congestion and pollution levels, which has a negative influence on citizens' health and, ultimately, the nation's economic growth. Additionally, alternative means of transportation for greater connectivity are imperative with the inherent conditions that they are widely available.
To change the face of personal aviation by introducing innovative alternate transportation avenues. BLADE India recently came up with time-sharing private jet services, wherein one can buy the fly timing of the private jet and travel to their favorite destination whenever they wish to.
In an interview with Amit Dutta, Managing Director, Blade India, we find out the brand's history and how it plans to overcome transportation issues.
Please describe Blade India's journey to this point.
Amit Dutta: BLADE India is a joint venture between BLADE Urban Air Mobility Inc. headquartered in New York and New Delhi-based investment fund, Hunch Ventures. We are an Urban Air Mobility platform connecting short distances through vertical aircraft such as helicopters with a vision to transition into Electric Vertical Aircrafts (EVAs) in the future.
We started operations in Maharashtra in 2019 with maiden flights between Mumbai, Pune, and Shirdi. We then launched its personalized charter service, BLADE Anywhere connecting destinations pan-India, and its med-evac service, BLADE Care.
We also expanded to Karnataka by connecting Bangalore to Coorg and Kabini. Shortly afterward, we launched our first intra-city service, BLADE Airport, with flights connecting Bangalore airport to key locations within the city such as HAL. Bangalore is infamous for its congestion; BLADE's goal was to reduce the travel time significantly by converting 2+ hours of road travel into short 10-12 minute flights.
Within three months of the launch of BLADE Airport, we added Hosur to our intra-city network to ease the commute between North and South Bangalore.
We've started services in Goa, connecting the new International Airport in MOPA with South Goa.
Our vision is to eventually transition into a fully electric fleet. To do this, we are actively working with our EVA partners such as Eve to not just use hours on their aircraft but also to develop the UAM ecosystem. Through these partnerships, we ensure we have the first-mover advantage and are the first ones to provide air mobility services using EVAs in the country.
How do you intend to address India's transportation issues?
Amit Dutta: With the growing population and increasing congestion, ground transportation is becoming increasingly challenging and time-consuming. Vertical Aircraft such as helicopters and Electric Vertical Aircrafts (EVAs) are the future of mobility. Places that are heavily congested, face grave accessibility issues, and aren't connected through commercial airlines can be accessed through our helicopters now. All of BLADE's routes are destinations that face any of the problems mentioned earlier. In the future, the transition will be to EVAs to connect short distances and are more environmentally friendly, having zero noise and carbon emissions. We've partnered with EVA manufacturers, EVE to get their aircraft into India and ensure we're at par with the rest of the world's advancements in UAM.
How are you changing the face of personal aviation by introducing novel alternate modes of transportation?
Amit Dutta: Our goal is to democratize short-haul air travel. Earlier, helicopters were seen as a luxury only afforded to the Ultra HNIs, celebrities, and VVIPs. By providing helicopter services on a seat basis, we bring down the costs and make it more accessible to the market. In the future, EVAs are expected to be even lower and will be more environmentally friendly as well.
What prompted the company to expand its services to Goa?
Amit Dutta: Goa has evolved beyond just being a party destination. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a major shift in the region's popularity, making it the top holiday destination in India. People from various cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore are either relocating to Goa or investing in second homes there. With the growing number of tourists and residents, there is a clear increase in demand for services.
This influx of travelers and residents alike also means higher congestion alongside the ongoing issue of connectivity. Hence, we envision a need for services such as ours that connect North Goa to South Goa in under 20 minutes. People can land in North Goa and check in to their hotels in south Goa all within 20 minutes, a route which otherwise takes up to 3 hours. Factoring that in with a price point of 6,000 per person, makes the service more accessible to all.
What are the special offerings for Goa visitors? What will the price be?
Amit Dutta: The launch of MOPA is indeed a huge milestone and a relief for travelers. Travelers can book a seat in the helicopter for Rs 6,000, to Taj Exotica, six days a week. We will offer two return journeys a day in line with hotel check-in/out timings, so travellers make the most of their Goa holiday. The first return journey from the South is between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. whereas the second return journey will be between 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.
We will also be providing its personalized charter service, BLADE Anywhere, to connect destinations within Goa and neighboring towns such as Dhardwad and Hubli. The services will also expand to more locations in North Goa with Fort Aguada as the next location.
Are there any rules that must be followed when flying with the company?
Amit Dutta: Passengers can carry up to 7kgs of luggage with them on the helicopter, anything extra shall be transferred on-ground.
Do you have any plans to expand services to other cities?
Amit Dutta: We are aiming at a pan-India expansion in the next 2 years.
Key trends of urban air mobility observed in India.
Amit Dutta: Urban air mobility (UAM) is a rapidly growing industry in India. The government's focus and support to enhance short-haul mobility are also commendable. We are already working on building the UAM ecosystem so that the country is ready with the adequate infrastructure required for the operation of EVAs. Cities like Dubai, Singapore, and Los Angeles have already created plans for implementing urban air mobility and using EVAs to reduce traffic congestion. The low noise and carbon footprint of EVAs will also make urban air transportation more affordable and accessible to a wider audience. The industry has already attracted over $5 billion in global investment for the development of EVA prototypes. In India, Blade India has teamed up with Eve to explore the possibilities of urban air mobility and increase accessibility to vertical aircraft. Electric air vehicles will create a new aerial transit system for the masses, similar to how metro systems are used for ground transportation to reduce congestion. The future of urban air mobility is rapidly developing, and its uses will range from travel and recreation to emergency services, last-mile deliveries, and more.
Bookings for the flights are open and can be made on the BLADE India website or through the Flier Relations team at 1800 102 5233.