Last month, American Airlines and BLADE announced a partnership aimed at high-value business and first class passengers on its flagship route between New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX).
The idea was two-fold. First, the partnership with supposed to facilitate getting to and from the airport via BLADE’s helicopter service. Second, American’s Five Star Services was to supplement the air transfer with an easy on-the-ground airport experience with Cadillac transfer, expedited check-in, security, etc. This included an add-on for access to the Flagship Lounge or The Private Suite at LAX.
However, there was criticism about the partnership from the get-go that besides pricing being prohibitive, the whole thing wasn’t even that seamless. Helicopter transfers couldn’t be done directly through American. Instead, you had to download the BLADE app and add on your flight connection manually.
The whole process between booking the helicopter, Five Star Service, and any other add-ons was not very straightforward. And of course, it was expensive.
Well, it looks like American and BLADE are at it again with a partnership relaunch of sorts with lower pricing across the board (sorry, still no helicopter + flight booking integration).
New, Simpler (And Lower) Pricing
In New York City, BLADE’s helicopter service now drops in price from “up to $395” to a standard $195, each way per person. BLADE offers services from both the west and east sides of Manhattan. These new fees are not just for flights in partnership with American, but for passengers connecting to a flight at JFK with any airline.
In Los Angeles, helicopter transfers are still priced “starting at $295.”
Five Star Service
Notably, Five Star Service drops in price from $350 each way to $150 per person. Note that the price drop is only for customers who also purchased the BLADE transfer. Since Five Star is usually $350 even without utilizing BLADE, American is providing a $200 discount for customers that use the co-marketed helicopter service.
BLADE already offers an expedited transfer service with any airline (called BLADE Bounce) between just the helicopter and up to security for $100. American probably realized they had to lower their Five Star pricing for customers to use their service instead.
It’s good to see pricing lower, but the core issue is the program isn’t that seamless to use. Helicopter transfers aren’t new and Five Star Services aren’t either. BLADE Bounce was already there to get customers from the helipad to the terminal and vice versa.
The tech integration between these two companies would’ve truly been the wow-factor.
For JFK, I’ll just be sticking with my Long Island Rail Road transfers and my Uber hack to save 50% off rides back to Manhattan.