T.J. Otzelberger arrives by helicopter. Picture: ETHAN MILLER / GETTY IMAGES / AFP
T.J. Otzelberger arrives by helicopter. Picture: ETHAN MILLER / GETTY IMAGES / AFP

Manila — A new startup may have the answer for cashed-up travellers desperate to beat the gridlock in the mega cities of Southeast Asia: helicopter ride-sharing.

Ascent Flights Global is starting the service in the Philippines next week and plans to expand to Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia by 2020.

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 three minutes, with seats going for 6,900 pesos ($133) each. The longest flight between the two airports will cost 25,900 ($497) pesos for a 30-minute trip that would usually take three hours. Local charter business Inaec Aviation is proving 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 during a media briefing 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 startup, backed by venture capital company Reapra, is looking to raise another $3m-$5m over the next two years to fund regional expansion.