While the southern city of Bengaluru is renowned for being the country’s Silicon Valley among other things, it’s notorious for its vehicular traffic. In order to help ease the city’s traffic, an aviation service provider, Thumby Aviation, from the neighbouring state of Kerala has started a helicopter taxi service. Now you can travel from Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) to Whitefield in flat 15 minutes. A fact that residents of the city and regular visitors familiar with its traffic woes would appreciate given that it otherwise takes 90 minutes and costs Rs.1,500-Rs.2,000 for the same journey by road.
At present, the service is available from KIA to Electronic City, Phase I and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Airport in Yelahanka. KIA is the third busiest airport in the country after New Delhi and Mumbai and in 2017 has seen 21.31 million fliers.
One can book a seat using the HeliTaxii app (available on Android and iOS) or at the company’s counter at KIA by paying Rs.4,130 including GST. Passengers are allowed to carry luggage up to 15 kg and need to pay Rs.499 for additional bags ( for up to20 kg). Each trip ferries six passengers and the service is available in two slots —6.30 am to 9.30 am in the morning and 3.30 pm to 6.30 pm in the evening. Currently, Thumby is using only one Bell 407 helicopter and securing a seat on this ride is subject to availability. It flies on a route approved by the Ministry of Defense and Airports Authority of India to avoid interference with KIA’s or the Air Force’s traffic at HAL.
Thumby that has a designated heliport at KIA, which is a kilometer away from the airport, provides a vehicle to take passengers till there. Helipads at Electronic City and HAL are also a kilometer away from a metro station or a bus stop near by. It also offers private helicopter rides from KIA to Coorg, Chikmagalur, and Wayanad for Rs.80,000 to Rs.90,000 per hour. According to Govind Nair, director, business development, Thumby Aviation, “From March till now, HeliTaxii has completed around 60 rides and catered to 225 passengers.” The company is ready with the second helicopter if the demand from passengers goes up at KIA. “Going ahead, the company is evaluating cities like Hyderabad and New Delhi and wants to have a pan-India presence,” Nair says. If all goes as per the company’s plan, hitching a ride to the airport on a helicopter would soon be a possibility across other cities.