If money weren’t an issue, we’d all be hopping on helicopters to take us from point A to point B, given the traffic situation in Metro Manila. But P6,900 for a three-minute chopper ride from Makati to Bonifacio Global City seems like a lot, even if you consider yourself part of the moneyed class. So it’ll be interesting to find out how Ascent, Southeast Asia’s first on-demand helicopter ride-sharing service, well, takes off.
At Ascent's big launch, Captain Manuel Tamayo, Department of Transportation Undersecretary for Aviation and Airports, addressed head on the main issue that was on everybody’s mind: starting a helicopter transport service is not an acknowledgment of defeat in the war against traffic.
“This (service) offers people an alternative to traverse the (city),” he said. “It just means may choice, may pagpipilian.”
Lionel Sinai-Sinelnikoff, CEO and co-founder of Ascent, echoed the undersecretary’s sentiments, saying the launch of the platform represents yet another option for on-the-go travelers and busy executives who consider time a valuable resource. He added it was also a way to utilize existing but underused transportation infrastructure.
“CBDs in Metro Manila have an untapped transportation opportunity,” he said. “There is a good number of helipads and helicopters with low utilization. Through the Ascent platform, we aim to connect CBDs more easily and promote the country as an ideal destination to conduct business helped by urban air mobility.”
Ascent’s partner air operator is INAEC Aviation Corp., a Lopez-owned subsidiary that already offers chartered air transport services to big-name companies, particularly offshore oil and gas producers. Aldi Dexter Ampong, INAEC GM, said the company currently has seven helicopters and will make two of them available for Ascent’s services—a Bell 429 that is capable of seating seven, and an Airbus H125 that can accommodate up to five commuters.
Besides the Makati to BGC route, Ascent’s inaugural flight services can take passengers from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to Clark in about 30 minutes (ordinarily a three-hour car ride) for P25,900, and NAIA to Tagaytay in 20 minutes (from about two-and-a-half hours) for P21,900.
That might sound steep, but compared to existing charter flight services that typically start at around P100,000 for a one-way trip, that doesn’t sound bad at all.
In addition, using the Ascent app or through its website, passengers can choose to fly at strategic or set times, or book a private ride at their own leisure and convenience.
As a preview of its services, Ascent and INAEC let members of the media experience what it’s like to take a quick chopper ride over the congested streets of the city. Following a quick safety briefing, ground staff buckled us in and the pilot flew us over the airport, around Manila Bay to Makati towards the bridge along EDSA to Mandaluyong, and back again to NAIA. The whole ride took just a little over five minutes and felt comfortable and secure. It wasn't hard to imagine taking a helicopter to the next appointment to shave off precious hours in traffic during a working day.
We like the idea that the region’s first-ever commuter helicopter service is right here in the Philippines. Whether there’s enough of a clientele in Manila willing to plunk down big money for such a convenience that would, in turn, ensure the sustainability of this operation, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Thinking of trying this service out? Booking your rides through the Ascent platform.
This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph.
* Minor edits have been made by the Femalenetwork.com editors.