The status of the recession is up in the air.
A New Jersey based helicopter charter and sightseeing service, Liberty Helicopter Inc., is offering commuter flights to Manhattan for about $200 a day, indicating a possible economic turnaround for Wall Street, Bloomberg.com reported.
For $99 one-way on weekdays and $139 on weekends, clients can be flown from Port Monmouth, NJ to landing pads at Pier 6 near Wall Street and East 30th Street in a matter of minutes. Each helicopter can accommodate up to six passengers.
In comparison, one-way rides from Atlantic Highlands to Manhattan on the SeaStreak ferry cost $23 and take about one hour.
The flight takes about eight minutes to travel the 20 mile distance, during which clients fly above the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Patrick Day, Liberty Helicopter's vice president of charter marketing -- and a pilot -- said the average commuter could save up to 14 hours of travel time a week.
“The big thing about helicopters is that it is all about saving time,” Day told NBCNewYork.
Liberty Helicopter began running ads about the commuter charter service at the end of February. Since, the company has received inquires from nearly 300 people, about 150 of whom who are serious potential clients.
“We got hammered by the recession,” said Day. “It’s been 18 months. The phones have starting ringing again like they rang in 2008.”
In the New York area, the corporate helicopter industry accounts for about one-third of total helicopter traffic, Robert Grotell, an independent transportation consultant in Port Jefferson, NY, told Bloomberg.com. He said the interest in Liberty Helicopters’ commuter charter service could be a sign of how much Wall Street has bounced back.
“When an economy turns sour, corporate air transportation seems to be one of the first things that’s affected, and it’s usually one of the last things to come back,” Grotell told Bloomberg.com.
After measuring last year’s volume of helicopter flights, Jeff Smith, chairman of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council in Yardley, Pennsylvania, told Bloomberg.com that there had been a 45 percent decline, but has been reversing since February.
According to Day, business has gone up about 10-15 percent in March, and is expected to do the same this summer.
“Those services that people went away from, they’re coming back to because they’re realizing the value of time,” Day said.
In the summer of 2008, Liberty Helicopters employed 138 people, which since dropped to a recent low of 47 employees.
Now, Day believes that things are getting better. The company has hired 6 new pilots, 3 mechanics and 4 administrative staff members, and is looking to hire more people by May.
Weekend commuter charter service began Friday, with the first flight to Manhattan that left New Jersey at 4:30pm. Weekday service will begin in April.
For more information, visit Liberty Helicopters on the web.