We try a £162 10-minute helicopter service that takes you from JFK to Manhattan

Fancy touching down into New York in style? Helicopter company Blade has partnered with US budget airline JetBlue to offer discounted chopper rides into Manhattan for loyal costumers. Metro.co.uk was one of the first to check the new service out…

I’ve lived in New York for a number of years but arriving by helicopter made for my most dramatic and time efficient city entrances yet.

I was invited to test out Blade’s new helicopter service in conjunction with JetBlue. Flights run from $195 (£162) per person, but for loyal JetBlue customers there are significant reductions on offer.

The budget airline started running direct flights from London to New York this spring with the equivalent of a business class cabin called Mint available.

Some of the perks of JetBlue’s Mint service include lay-flat beds, eco-friendly amenity kits, delicious menus curated by some of some of New York’s hottest hipster spots, a great cocktail selection and free high speed WiFi, which extends through to economy too.

After touching down into Terminal 5 of JFK airport – JetBlue’s flagship terminal – and passing through security and luggage reclaim, we were met by a Blade representative who swiftly shuttled us towards a luxury vehicle for a short ride to the helicopter terminal.

The day we landed, the weather was a little iffy with winds and a sudden deluge of rain, so we were shown to a waiting room while the storm passed.

After a 15-minute wait, during which we necked a couple of coffees from the free-to-use machine, we were directed towards the runway with one other passenger.

Luckily our luggage was light enough to fit in the chopper but if your bags are too big, Blade can arrange a drop off for you either by car or by another helicopter later in the day.

Our fellow passenger revealed he was from Boston and that he uses Blade’s helicopter service twice a week to attend meetings in New York after taking short internal flight.

‘Who wants to deal with road traffic!’ he said with a grin.

He also put our fears about the weather to rest, adding: ‘I’ve flown in way worse, you’ll be fine! Just enjoy it – it’s a great way to see the city.’

The three of us were shown into the helicopter and told to put ear defenders on to block out the noise of the blades. The headsets came with microphones so we could continue talking to each other during the flight.

After a brief safety briefing, the helicopter gradually started its ascent and it was full throttle forwards towards the Big Apple.

The helicopter (a Bell 407GXP) features floor to ceiling glass panels so you can soak up the magnificent views of the suburbs below.

By far the best part of the ride is when you navigate New York’s peninsula hovering by the One World Observatory tower, the Statue of Liberty and more as you go.

While the journey only lasts 10 minutes or so, it makes for a very memorable flight and something you’ll be able to tell friends and family about for years to come.

Blade’s helicopter base is at West 30th St so you come in just below the Empire State building and close to the buzzing Hudson Yards complex.

Despite the windy weather it was a soft landing and on touching down we were escorted to the Blade waiting lounge.

In line with the company’s hip and cool ethos, the lounge is like a slick 60s lair complete with an open bar, plush couches and neon lights.

Blade can arrange car services to continue your journey onwards.

Our Uber was a little delayed which meant we went for a second round of wine and the jolly bar attendant gave us special branded Blade sippy cups to take our beverages with us.

Helicoptering into New York will be a trip I will always remember.

Nothing beats the feeling of skipping grid locked traffic below and soaring around at the same height as skyscrapers. With one-way Uber trips to JFK now around around £120, Blade’s service is definitely an option worth exploring.

Top tips to doing New York in style

Where to stay

Equinox Hotel

Soak up magnificent views of the Hudson while keeping your fitness regime up by checking into the slick Equinox Hotel New York.

This upscale complex serves up everything from sophisticated suites to a state-of-the-art gym to a rooftop swimming pool. I checked into a premier king room with sweeping views over the Hudson River.

Some of the best features included a marble-clad bathroom with sweet-smelling Grown Alchemist products, an enormous bed, an easy-to-use iPad concierge system and electric black out blinds for the floor to ceiling windows.

For a spot of relaxation in the city after shopping until you drop, check into the hotel’s spa which offers a range of cutting-edge treatments. The cryogenic chamber certainly helps ward off a hangover, with your body submitted to temperatures below -50 degrees Celsius for three minutes while you listen to music of your choice.

On the dining front, the hotel’s Electric Lemon restaurant is a popular spot come day and night so it’s worth making a reservation prior to your stay, especially for dinner.

The Standard East Village

Views from a Junior Suite at The Standard East Village

If you fancy a bar crawl before hitting the pillow, one of the best located hotels in Manhattan for a spot of revelry is The Standard East Village.

This hotel is located right next to Soho for the shops and the East Village for a run of the hipster bar scene.

Perks of the hotel include a secluded garden area and a retro-style restaurant serving up some of the best eggs and avocado on toast for breakfast.

Upgrade to a Junior Suite for top notch views of the city, a separate work space-cum-dressing area, and a tub in the bathroom.

Where to eat

KYU

Mom’s coconut cake at KYU New York

If you fancy tucking into different kind of chef’s tasting menu, head to KYU on Lafayette Street, close to Soho. You certainly won’t leave this feast hungry with nine bountiful courses to keep your tastebuds entertained.

The dishes change regularly but some of the staples you must try include the moreish ‘kunchy’ kale, the melt-in-your-mouth beef short ribs, the creamy stone pot Thai fried rice and ‘mom’s coconut cake’ to finish.

If you can’t manage it all, be sure to ask for a doggie bag.

Westlight

For sky high views of Manhattan, top notch cocktails and relaxed nibbles, head over to the eye-catching William Vale hotel. This art-infused spot has a great buzz about it and it’s the perfect place to gather family, friends or lovers.

Westlight, the rooftop restaurant on the 22nd floor, has indoor and outdoor seating, so it can host diners all year round.

Recommended dishes include the dry aged beef burger and crispy herb fries.

Gallow Green

The World’s Fair (a blend of mezcal, green tea, yuzu and cucumber) cocktail at Gallow Green

Get your knife and fork ready for a different kind of rooftop restaurant experience over at the McKitterick Hotel in Chelsea in the form of Gallow Green.

This events venue – which is where the show Sleep No More takes place – has a couple of dining options, but Gallow Green is where its at when it comes to atmosphere, service and food. During the summer this space serves as a jungle oasis while in winter it is transformed into a cosy lodge.

Some of the must-try drinks include the World’s Fair (a blend of mezcal, green tea, yuzu and cucumber) and the punchy Manderley (a heady mix of absinthe, lillet blanc and velvet falernum).

On the food front, the juicy house burger promises to impress, along with the Caesar salad and perfectly cooked flat iron steak.

What to see

Sleep No More

By far one of the most unique theatre options in New York is Sleep No More. While this immersive show has been running for many years, it still promises to enthral spectators even if you’ve seen it once – or ten! – times before.

The show is loosely based on Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy Macbeth through a film noir lens. Once you enter the show it’s like you’ve entered a dreamscape, with a maze-like slew of rooms and spaces to explore as the performers unravel around you.

It’s really an experience that’s hard to explain until you’ve tried it but you’re guaranteed to leave a little dazed and confused.

Nowadays

If it’s a spot of late night dancing you’re after, Nowadays in Bushwick serves as a playground for adults with an expansive outdoor space decked out with food trucks and a fog-shrouded indoor space where you can dance the night away until 4am.

Aire Ancient Baths

Aire Ancient Baths is located in Tribeca and it’s a great place to relax

After days of shopping, partying and gorging on all of Manhattan’s delights are trip to the Aire Ancient Baths is the just the medicine you need.

This place in Tribeca transports you to an underground world of tranquility, complete with soft lighting, calming music and delightful smells.

The sensory experience continues in the form of various bathing pools, which are heated at different temperatures. Heat yourself up in the super hot pool before daring yourself to plunge into the freezing tub. One of the most unique pools features an ultra high salt content so your whole body floats.

There is also a steam room in the centre of the space, which will help decongest your airways so you’re ready to hit Manhattan for round two.

Day passes do not include treatments, so you will need to book these separately.

If you’re looking for something a little wacky and wonderful, Aire’s signature luxury treatment involves a spa session for two in a barrel-shaped tub filled with red wine.

How to get around

Uber is by far one of the easiest modes of transport to navigate the city or if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, Revel electric scooters are available to pick up from the curb by downloading the app, as are electric Citi Bikes.

For airport transfers, the ultimate option is Blade but the next best option if you’re travelling with a group and want a swankier vehicle is Blacklane. This service allows you to schedule rides in advance and you can pick from a range of vehicles, including limousines.

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