Ascent Asia announced it will soon launch its helicopter ride-hailing service in Thailand with flights in Bangkok, Chon Buri, Rayong, Hua Hin and Pattaya, with flights starting at 8,000 baht per seat. The company hopes to kick-start an urban air travel trend in the kingdom.

Ascent Asia, based in Singapore, is on a trial run in Thailand, after having already been operating for over a year in the operations in the Philippines with flights in Manila and surrounding cities.

Lionel Sinai-Sinelnikoff, founder and chief executive of Ascent, said the business will target high-end tourists with flights from Bangkok to Hua Hin and Pattaya, and business professionals with flights between Bangkok and the Eastern Economic Corridor in Rayong and Chon Buri, as well as commuting flights around the Bangkok area.

“We found passengers save up to 85% of their commute time than if they were stuck in traffic at a rate which is 10 times more affordable than traditional charter flights,” he said.

Ascent has access to a fleet of seven helicopters holding 10 passengers each through local Thai helicopter operators, and its customers can book helicopters as a ride share with individual seats or charter whole helicopters.

“We bring the demand and aggregate the supply of helicopter operators, helipads and other service partners and orchestrate the entire mobility journey, which includes land and air,” Mr Sinai-Sinelnikoff said.

Ascent also offers additional value-added services such as luggage transport and first and last-mile pickups. “Being able to sell rides based on a ride share system allows you to purchase very affordably,” said Darren T’ng, co-founder and chief commercial officer of Ascent.  “That is versus a charter model where you have to get a Thai helicopter and are usually not paying by the route but by time.”

He said the company is looking at the sector in the long term, hoping to build up a user base and interest for urban air travel to expand the network of flights and reduce price. He estimates once the cost of one seat on a helicopter drops to around US$50, the concept will be viable for mass adoption.

Mr Sinai-Sinelnikoff said the company is looking ahead to the next generation of aviation vehicles beyond helicopters being developed called electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.

The company has partnered with two Thai aviation companies, Advance Aviation and SFS Aviation, to supply access to their helicopters and other aviation services.

“Urban air mobility has been a growing trend in the last few years especially with Ascent in Asia. In line with our focus on private VIP aviation services, our clients can now regain control of their time with Ascent by purchasing flights by the seat, making short-haul trips more cost-efficient, all in a safe environment,” said Chai Nasylvanta, president and chief executive of Advance Aviation.

“This opens up a variety of possibilities including a seamless journey by helicopter from within Bangkok to our base near Suvarnabhumi airport combined with a private jet to your next location.”