How Rob Wiesenthal is bringing cutting-edge air travel to Nantucket.
Imagine this: You’re working in New York City on a Friday afternoon, counting down the minutes until you can punch the clock and begin your long voyage to Nantucket for the weekend. But instead of creeping through bumper-to-bumper traffic to JFK airport to catch a flight, or worse, slogging six hours to Hyannis for the ferry, you simply stroll from your office to a swanky lounge in Manhattan. After enjoying a happy hour cocktail and some light bites, you board a sleek helicopter that then choppers you directly to a chartered jet waiting to take you off to Nantucket. Bing, bang, boom — the whole commute takes under two hours. Sounds like the stuff of rock stars, right? Well, not anymore.
What’s been called Uber for helicopters, Blade is a new aviation company that’s been creating a buzz by whisking New Yorkers off to the Hamptons directly from the heart of Manhattan with the simple touch of a smart phone. Just the thought of chartering a helicopter screams expensive, but the company has leveraged new crowd-sourcing technology that means private air travel is no longer limited to the rich and famous. For instance, Blade’s helicopter flight to the airport can be booked within twenty minutes and cost around $150*. Sure, that’s more than cab fare, but to beat New York City traffic on a Friday, the flight is priceless.
Now Blade has landed on Nantucket, bringing with it a chic lounge that’s bound to attract some high-end clientele this summer. And the timing couldn’t be better. Nantucket Memorial Airport has had a turbulent off-season, complete with prolonged construction of its control tower and the shuttering of Island Airlines. The addition of Blade will make Nantucket more accessible for New Yorkers and also for those flying from Connecticut and Boston. Blade is not a direct air carrier, but rather connects passengers with charter flights offering services that go far beyond your typical airline.
“A big part of our business is reducing the friction for travelers,” says Rob Wiesenthal, the CEO of Blade. “Our view is that there’s no reason that your trip can’t be as enjoyable as your vacation.” This is not Wiesenthal’s first rodeo when it comes to entertaining people. As the former chief strategy officer, senior vice president, and ultimately chief financial officer of Sony Entertainment, Wiesenthal spent more than a decade orchestrating blockbuster deals in the realms of music, film, and television. In 2005, he became a legend in the industry when he personally negotiated a deal with Michael Jackson in a hotel room in Dubai that prevented the music icon from filing for bankruptcy, arguably earning Sony billions. Wiesenthal later became COO of Warner Music Group, where he continued his savvy streak in entertainment, landing on Billboard’s Power 100 list, and even finding himself center stage at Madison Square Garden to play the ukulele with Roger Waters.
“A lot of people have asked me what does it feel like to have left the entertainment industry?” says Wiesenthal. “I’ll tell them, ‘What do you mean ‘left the entertainment industry’?’” Beyond safety, the forty-nine-year-old believes that air travel is all about entertainment. He thinks the airline industry has become stale and pedestrian. “We’re trying to bring back the days before aviation became transportation,” he says. “We’re trying to bring some of that romance, that adventure, the excitement, a little bit of edginess… back to when aviation was cool and exciting, because right now it’s neither.”
Along with helicopters and specially-trained flight attendants called CX’s, Blade is revamping the image of air travel by way of its lounges. With chic, sophisticated design, Blade’s lounges epitomize the new image Wiesenthal wants his passengers to have about aviation. While Nantucket will have its own Blade lounge in hangar 1, once the digs of Ocean Wings Air Charter, don’t expect it to be a slice of Manhattan. Wiesenthal insists that its look and feel will be in keeping with the island’s aesthetic. No matter what it looks like, Blade promises to provide Nantucket travelers with a new cutting-edge option in which the sky’ s the limit.
Learn more about Blade at flyblade.com.
* At press time, a helicopter flight from one of Blade’s lounges in Manhattan to the airport in New York City cost $895 for six passengers, which shakes out to about $150 per passenger. Prices subject to change.