‘Uber for Choppers’ Mimics Airbnb Tactics, Asks Users to Oppose NYC Noise bill

November 13, 2015, 1:28 PM UTC
Blade helicopter
A Blade helicopter.
Courtesy: Blade

Blade, a startup that whisks wealthy folks to the Hamptons and Nantucket via private helicopters, is calling on customers to take a stand. On Tuesday, the company emailed a petition where people can oppose a plan to limit certain types of noise over New York City.

As far as popular causes go, this isn’t exactly “Save the Children.” But the Blade email is intriguing because it shows, once again, how a new generation of startups are leveraging their customer base for political power. Both Uber and Airbnb, for instance, have staved off regulation in part by framing their lobbying efforts as a public interest cause, and asking customers to join the fight.

Blade appears to be following the same playbook to fight a proposed New York City law, which would curtail sight-seeing helicopters—though that doesn’t include Blade since it’s a transportation service. The company’s email, for instance, frames the issue as something bigger than easy access to a helicopter ride with sippy cups of rosé (one of the little perks that comes with being a Blade customer). Instead, Blade invokes jobs, hospitals, “crowdsourcing technology” and more:

[Y]ou should pay special attention to what is happening within the local NYC legislature. […] Without tourism revenue, our operators may not be able to provide necessary equipment to service BLADE flights and allow us to use our crowdsourcing technology to make flying more affordable for our clients.

Beyond BLADE, the helicopter tour industry employs hundreds of people and generates more than $50,000,000 in revenue to the city, which is used to fund schools, hospitals and other essential services.

Such appeals are unlikely to impress helicopter opponents like Stop the Chop, which has been calling on the city government to revoke the charter of helicopter sight-seeing tours that operate out of lower Manhattan. Those tours rankle many New Yorkers because of the incessant din they add to an already noisy city. Meanwhile, Stop the Chop dismisses the “$50,000,000 in revenue” as a fanciful figure ginned up by the tour operators.

So where will this end? On one hand, Blade and its well-heeled client base could be an important ally for the helicopter operators’ attempt to squelch bills to restrict the sight-seeing outfits. On the other hand, Blade’s campaign could also backfire. That’s what happened when Airbnb ran a billboard campaign in San Francisco that many perceived as tone deaf and passive-aggressive.

The New York bill limiting the tourist helicopters was proposed in July but has yet to be signed into law. If it fails, it could be another example where city regulators prove no match for a startup’s sophisticated PR tactics.

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For more on Airbnb’s fight against Proposition F in San Francisco check out the following Fortune video:

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