Blade takes over Monacair service

Monacair is one of three regional helicopter companies to have its services taken over by US group Blade Air Mobility, which will begin operations with a seven-minute Nice to Monaco transfer during this week’s Monaco Grand Prix.

It was announced recently that the routes and heliports of Monacair, Héli Sécurité and another unnamed European operator have been bought out by US group Blade Air Mobility for a reported €48 million.

“These three acquisitions are core to our strategy of leveraging our asset-light model to aggregate the premier use cases for urban air mobility,” Blade CEO Rob Wiesenthal said in a statement. “As a result, Blade has now amassed what we believe to be the most valuable routes in the world.

“Adding this formidable presence in Europe to our existing operations across the greater New York area, Vancouver, and India, is a critical step in our expansion.”

Monacair runs 50 scheduled flights daily between Nice Airport and Monaco, while Héli Sécurité has 16 flights that cover St. Tropez and the Swiss Alps. An industry source in Europe identified the third company as Cannes-based Azur Hélicoptère, whose investors include Oaktree Capital Management, but this has not yet been confirmed.

The local companies will keep their fleets, with Blade as their sole customer using an “asset light strategy”. This will allow the entities to transfer capabilities, such as people, processes and technology to new owners in order to allow existing businesses to transfer fixed costs to a variable cost structure.

Blade calls itself a “technology-powered, global urban air mobility platform committed to reducing travel friction by enabling cost-effective air transportation alternatives to some of the most congested ground routes in the U.S. and abroad”.

By-the-seat flights for the Monaco Grand Prix start at $220.

The group has secured prominent investors for the deal, including Cathie Wood from Ark Invest and Ferrari shareholder John Elkann.

“The whole business model behind Blade is to accumulate the best routes, infrastructure, and customers in the world who are currently traveling by helicopter . . . and then providing those businesses with a seamless transition for electric vertical aircraft,” CEO Rob Wiesenthal told Financial Times.

Blade has sought to put its brand on popular routes in advance of the arrival of a new generation of electric vertical aircraft, called eVOTLs or EVAs, and have contracted four EVA developers to start delivering new choppers in 2024.