Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Manila helicopter ride-share taxi service to launch next week

For those wanting to beat the Philippines' capital's notorious traffic congestion taking to the air could be the answer - at a price

New tax regime would aim to expand Manila-centred wealth to the rest of the country. EPA
New tax regime would aim to expand Manila-centred wealth to the rest of the country. EPA

A new start-up may have the answer for cashed-up travellers desperate to beat the gridlock in the mega cities of South East Asia such as Manila: helicopter ride-sharing.

Ascent Flights Global is starting the service in the Philippines capital next week and plans to expand to Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia by next year.

The Singapore-based company lets customers book a seat on a helicopter online for flights during the morning and afternoon rush hours. Targeting executives and luxury travellers, the choppers fly to the Makati and Taguig City central business districts, as well as airports in Manila and Clark north of the capital.

The shortest flight between the two business districts cuts travel time from half an hour to 3 minutes, with seats going for 6,900 pesos (Dh488) each. The longest flight between the two airports will cost 25,900 pesos for a 30-minute trip that would usually take three hours. Local charter business Inaec Aviation is providing the helicopters and pilots.

“We believe the cost of time is different for those who are time-sensitive,” Ascent founder and former Airbus Helicopters executive Lionel Sinai-Sinelnikoff said in Manila on Wednesday.

If its Philippine venture succeeds, Ascent wants to start services in Bangkok, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur in 2020, and then cities in China and Japan. The start-up, backed by venture capital company Reapra, is looking to raise another $3 million to $5m over the next two years to fund regional expansion.

Traffic in Manila is so congested many thousands of travellers prefer motorcycles to cars.

But last month, more than 10,000 motorcycle riders staged a motorcade in the main highways of the Philippine capital to protest at new regulations forcing them to display bigger licence plates, saying the measure would not solve the problem.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the measure into law last month, requiring all licensed motorbikes to display bigger front and rear plates to make them more visible to the authorities and any witnesses to crimes. The move was apparently designed to help crack down on criminals using motorbikes to evade the police.

At present, registration plates are displayed only on the back.

Under the law, the font style of plates should be readable from a distance of 15 metres. For quick and easy identification, the plates need to be colour coded for each of the country's 17 regions.

"This is not a solution for crime because a criminal will not use his own motorcycle. This is why the riding community should fight the double plate bill," protester Joseph De Los Reyes said.

Updated: April 3, 2019 12:19 PM

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