Europe Gets New Helicopter Charter Card

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Charter "card" programs, allowing customers to pre-pay for their travel in exchange for reduced rates and other services, have grown very popular among companies and individuals with the need to fly but lacking the resources or the will to buy their own business aircraft. Most charter brokers offer them, as do many of the fractional operations, as another way to establish and maintain brand loyalty. Recently, the idea has migrated from fixed-wing aircraft to rotary-winged charters and, this month, French helicopter and business jet charter company Aviaxess launched Europe’s first helicopter card, the Corporate Helicard, and plans to expand it throughout the region if demand grows. Paris-based Aviaxess has established operator members in 12 European cities, says president Frederic Aguettant, giving the company access to 35 helicopters ranging from the Eurocopter AS350 light single to the Sikorsky S-76 medium twin. The Helicard is available in 25- and 50-hour blocks at a fixed price throughout Europe. Pricing for 25 hours aboard an AS350 costs $31,800, although a customer who uses the helicopter for half a day “will only be charged for one hour,” according to Aguettant.

Aviaxess owns and manages a fleet of six helicopters, including a Eurocopter EC135 and AgustaWestland A109 Power. According to Aguettant, forming relationships with established operators in mainland Europe has been a challenge. “Here, helicopters are commonly used for aerial work and not for VIP transport,” so many aircraft are ill-equipped to ferry business passengers, he says. Aviaxess says it is in talks with Europe’s leading business aircraft fractional ownership and charter companies, including NetJets Europe and Skyjet International, in an attempt to offer quicker and direct transportation to their final destinations.