Are flying taxis the future of commuting? Blade thinks so with announcement to go public
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Even as the pandemic continues to devastate the aviation industry, Blade remains committed to providing relatively affordable air transportation alternatives to cut traffic. The six-year-old Uber-like aviation company has just announced plans to go public by merging with a blank-check company.
This deal will value Blade at about $825 million, which is well ahead of its 2018 valuation of $140 million. It’s expected to close in the first half of 2021, and will see the company trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker “BLDE.”
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Blade is best known for its helicopter flights between Manhattan and New York’s three major airports, which start at $195 per seat (or $95 with the purchase of an annual Airport Pass), and the Hamptons, which range between $595 and $795 per seat (or $295 for monthly commuter pass holders). But the company also offers on-demand charters for helicopters, turboprops and any class of private jet to practically anywhere in the world. For those looking to fly private on a budget, it also lets you book by-the-seat on scheduled BLADEone flights to popular vacation spots or member-proposed “FlightTilt” charters. The company doesn’t actually own any of its aircraft and instead acts as an agent of charter operators who do the actual flying with their planes and crews.
The company plans to use proceeds from the transaction to fund expansion into new markets, including the Northeast Corridor and West Coast in the United States, as well as internationally in Asia. Part of the proceeds will also go towards funding Blade’s transition to eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft.
Airbus, an investor in Blade, is already in the process of developing self-flying, electric aircraft. Other transportation companies like Bell Helicopters are working on eVTOL flying taxi systems as well. Uber also plans to integrate air taxis into its app, but sold its urban air mobility initiative earlier this month. According to Morgan Stanley Equity Research, urban air mobility is expected to be a $125 billion market by 2025 and grow to $650 billion over the next decade.
News of Blade’s plan to go public comes amid a bullish market for tech-focused IPOs.
DoorDash and Airbnb each went public this month with blockbuster IPOs that far exceeded expectations. Airbnb, for example, was valued at more than $100 billion shortly after it went public — a valuation that exceeds the combined value of well-established lodging giants Hilton and Marriott, according to CNN.
The IPOs from both companies benefitted from a market flush with low interest rates and investors seeking a good return.
But at least some skeptics now wonder if the start-ups can live up to the expectations that were set with their first-day trading run-ups. One Wall Street analyst quoted by Bloomberg News warned Airbnb’s valuation is “more than stretched” as compared to comparable travel companies. DoorDash faces similar concerns in its space, another warned.
For now, those watching Blade will be left to wonder if its IPO will hit the high marks set by Airbnb and DoorDash.
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