Would you like to fly?

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By Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman
Videography and photography by Sam Gonzales

Ten minutes is a short time, especially when you’re high on life — as in literally flying in a chopper.

A bird’s eye view of Manila from PhilJet’s helicopter.
A bird’s eye view of Manila from PhilJet’s helicopter.

While almost everyone flies these days thanks to cheap airfares, not everybody has experienced riding a helicopter around the city — but thanks to GrabTaxi, anyone can now fly high and in style — if they have the money.

The app-based taxi booking service’s newest baby is GrabHeli, a pre-booking helicopter service done in partnership with PhilJets, a charter and helicopter provider.

Upon the invitation of PhilJets, BusinessWorld’s videographer and this writer were able to experience a bird’s eye view of the beauty (and ugliness) of Metro Manila without a filter (snap the QR code in this story for the video).

For P3,888 per person, the chopper hovers above Makati, Bonifacio Global City, and Pasay cities. With the chopper’s clear, clean, and bigger windows, one gets a good view of the metro.

An unusual view of the Coconut Palace at the CCP Complex.
An unusual view of the Coconut Palace at the CCP Complex.

The tours are available every Friday and Saturday. The best time to take a tour is around four or past five in the afternoon, just before the light starts to dim. It’s the perfect moment to see the sky as it changes colors from blue to the mix of pink, purple, and orange that make up the famed Manila sunset. It’s also the best time to escape the hellish five o’clock traffic jam.  

From above, passengers can see the Metro Manila skyline and its skyscrapers — the cars and trucks below seem like little ants in a hurry (if they are moving at all, that is).

It isn’t scary at all. The pilots are trained and licensed. If you find the engine noise bothersome, wear the headphones. But who thinks about the noise when they are distracted by Manila Bay and its iconic sunset? It was half past five, and the city was aglow — its grime, temporarily veiled by the kaleidoscopic display of nature.

A GrabHeli chopper can accommodate six passengers plus the pilot. The best seats are besides the driver and the windows. But those sandwiched in the middle can also take their photos and videos because, again, the windows are huge.

One of PhilJet’s helicopters.
One of PhilJet’s helicopters.

Along with four other passengers, we were able to see how the city operates from a different angle. Alas, the 10-minute tour was so short it demands a repeat.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just fly over the hellish traffic of Metro Manila to get to our destination? Unfortunately, this is just a dream — for now. While GrabHeli is undergoing a three-month trial, it is open to becoming part of the transport system. But there are still issues that need to be resolved, like having more public hangars available in Metro Manila so the chopper ride runs smooth. Currently, there are only four accredited GrabHeli helipads in Makati, Bonifacio Global City, Pasay, and the Ortigas area.

“GrabTaxi has been in the Philippines for a few years now and we’re launching GrabHeli as a way to thank the passengers who have always supported us and stood as witnesses to our growth. It has always been our goal to transform the way Filipinos travel and aviation is not an exception,” said PhilJets Group CEO Thierry Tea in a statement.

How to book:
Book via the app, then a GrabCar will pick you up anywhere you are and it will take you to the PhilJet’s hangar in Pasay.

Who can book:
Passengers registered with GrabPay, a cashless payment system, can take the aerial tour of Makati, BGC, and Pasay City.