SAO PAULO – With close to 700 helicopters and 400 heliports, Sao Paulo state has one of the three largest fleets of these aircraft in the world, and for the past six months has offered a low-cost service that has made much more accessible what had previously been a form of transport for the very few.
In the city of Sao Paulo alone, considered Brazil’s financial center, there are 400 registered helicopters, according to the latest study taken in 2013, which even places Sao Paulo ahead of cities like New York.
With around 12 million inhabitants, Sao Paulo was known worldwide for its chaotic traffic and in 2014 set a new record with a traffic jam stretching more than 344 kilometers (214 miles) during a rush hour.
The interminable bottlenecks originally made the helicopter a virtually essential vehicle for top executives and the well-to-do in Brazil, especially in Sao Paulo, one of the cities with the largest number of millionaires in Latin America.
Nonetheless, the economic and political crisis pummeling Brazil for more than two years has greatly reduced helicopter operations and has led the way to low-cost flights on demand.
Since August, residents and tourists in Sao Paulo have been able to order a helicopter through Cabify, an associate of the Voom company of the Airbus group.
A client can order a helicopter through Cabify or directly online from Voom up to 45 minutes before the desired flight time at prices some 80 percent less than traditional air-taxi services.
A five-minute trip from a hotel on Ave. Faria Lima to Congonhas Airport can cost between 160 and 400 reais ($65 to $129) depending on the promotional discount, compared with 3,700 reais (around $1,190) charged by one of Sao Paulo’s more traditional air-taxi companies.
“We want to broaden our user base. Executives are still our main clients, but with the prices we offer, we are opening the category to many more customers. And that is what we aim to do,” Rogerio Guimaraes, head of new business at Cabify, told EFE.
According to the latest report by the Brazilian Helicopter Pilots Association (Abraphe) taken in 2013, Brazil has a fleet of some 1,700 helicopters across all its national territory, of which 700 are in Sao Paulo state, some 400 in Rio de Janeiro and around 260 in Minas Gerais.