Pope traffic a pain? Pay “Uber for choppers” $95 to fly over it

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican
Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, September 9, 2015. REUTERS/Max Rossi - RTS911
Photograph by Max Rossi — Reuters

Pope Francis arrives in New York this week, and the city is bracing for a traffic nightmare of biblical proportions. Extra security measures will shut down roads as His Holiness visits Central Park, Madison Square Gardens and other landmarks—but not everyone will be inconvenienced.

In response to the papal visit, a startup called Blade will offer special 5-minute helicopter flights to skip across Manhattan. The company, which lets users book choppers with a smartphone app, will charge $95 to cross a distance of about two miles.

“Due to popular demand BLADE will be offering flights between the West Side and the East Side of Manhattan during morning and evening rush hour time periods. We look forward to seeing you Friday and helping you beat the impending gridlock,” Blade told customers in a Thursday morning email.

The email also explained the chopper flights will not cross directly over Manhattan, but circle its waterfront instead in 5-8 minutes. And unlike Blade’s ordinary service, which lets users enjoy sippy cups of rosé, no alcohol will be permitted on the special flights.

The Pope will arrive at New York’s JFK Airport around 5pm on Thursday, and will then travel to lower Manhattan by (you guessed it), helicopter. According to The New York Times, he will be staying at a Vatican-owned townhouse on the Upper East Side, where he’s requested water and bananas for his bedroom. On Thursday night, the Pope’s first formal duties will be a short procession on 5th Avenue followed by an evening prayer service at the city’s famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

As for Blade, the company’s email also added that the special flights are intended to take place when traffic is “most impacted by the concurrent visits of the Pope, POTUS, and UN delegates.”

In a recent Fortune profile on Blade, company CEO Rob Wiesenthal told my colleague Erin Griffith that the service is about convenience for everyone, not luxury, and that it bans the use of terms like “VIP” and “jet-setting.”

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