Flying United? You Can Take a (Pricey) Helicopter Between Manhattan and Newark

Jun 12, 2018

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Getting to and from New York City airports can be painful, especially during rush hour. Taking a taxi can get pricey and public transit can be inconvenient.

Helicopter transfers have started to become more popular as a way to quickly travel to one of the city’s airports — flights sometimes take less than five minutes. On-demand helicopter flights like BLADE are becoming more popular, and Delta even partnered with the company last year to offer seamless transfers from Manhattan to your gate at JFK.

Now, United has started a new service offering helicopter flights between Manhattan and its hub at Newark International Airport (EWR). The airline has been running an ad campaign in the city touting the ease of accessibility to Newark via cab or train with slogans like “FASTEWR” and “CLOSEWR” — now United is making access even faster, for those who can afford it.

The service started in mid-May, a United spokesman told TPG. Flights are operated by HeliFlite and passengers can choose from three Manhattan helipads to arrive or depart from (East 34th, West 30th and Wall Street). Once your helicopter lands at Newark, you’ll be driven from Signature, a company operating a private terminal, to wherever your United flight is departing from, either Terminal B or C. If you’re flying into Newark, you can use the service to get into the New York too.

Heliflite’s fleet includes 10 AgustaWestland AW139s, four Bell 430s, four Sikorsky S-76s, and a Bell 429, all relatively large, twin-engine helicopters.

A Bell 429 operated by Heliflite. Image courtesy of Heliflite.

Prices aren’t cheap — you’ll have to shell out $2,099 for one to three travelers and $2,199 for four to six people. (Those figures are for the whole helicopter, not per person.) Helicopter transfers are bookable through United Signature Service which provides VIP travel services, like personal shoppers and airport concierges. If you do book a helicopter you’ll receive other benefits from United like assistance from a personal concierge, club access, and priority check-in.

Unfortunately, these steep prices won’t help on your quest for United elite status. No Premier Qualifying Miles (PQMs), Premier Qualifying Segments (PQSs) or Premier Qualifying Dollars (PQDs) will be earned if you arrange a chopper through United.

And if you’re concerned about baggage, Heliflite’s aircraft should be able to accommodate most traveler’s luggage. A United spokesman told us that the Bell 430 has a max cargo weight of 500lbs and the Sikorsky 76B can hold up to 600lbs. If you go over that limit, Signature Service will make separate arrangements for transportation of excess baggage to Newark.

BLADE offers helicopter transfers to Newark and you can book an entire six-person chopper from as little as $1,325 for a one-way flight from Manhattan to Newark — although that price doesn’t include the $250 car transfer to the United terminal. Individual seats on scheduled Blade flights can be booked from $195 one-way.

Driving from Midtown Manhattan to Newark takes about 40 minutes during off peak hours — rush hour traffic can add 20 to 30 minutes more. Train travel runs an hour or more, depending on where you’re leaving from in the city.

United’s been focusing on improving its premium services over the last two years, since rolling out its Polaris Business class experience. The airline opened its third Polaris lounge in Newark last week and has been incrementally retrofitting its long-haul aircraft with the new Polaris seats.

Featured image of a Leonardo AW139 courtesy of Heliflite. 

The article was updated to include mentions of United elite status, travel times to Newark and helicopter baggage limits.

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