A follow-up to last week’s post about the “Groupon mentality.”
This morning, I got an email message that I can only assume is from the same man the hotel concierge I blogged about was dealing with. I guess he figured that he could cut out the middleman and save some money. His message (with parts redacted), was as follows:
Heard about you from [redacted] Hotel. … my wife and I are in the area for business and I wanted to do a helicopter tour of the grand canyon. I was hoping the two of us could do it for about $500?
I’ll give the guy the benefit of the doubt and assume that he didn’t get pricing for that flight from the concierge or see Flying M Air’s website. In other words, I’ll assume he has no idea what Flying M Air charges for a trip like that.
So let’s look at what this particular trip entails.
- Exclusive use of a helicopter for more than 8 hours in the same day. (In other words, no other flight will likely be possible that day.) It should be noted that this aircraft cost $350,000 to acquire and has annual insurance and maintenance costs of about $20,000 to $25,000.
- A properly certificated pilot with 2,800 hours experience and about $50,000 worth of training, also occupied for the entire day.
- 30 to 60 minutes prepping the aircraft for flight and meeting the passengers.
- A 90 minute scenic flight from North Phoenix to the Grand Canyon.
- Ground transportation into the park.
- Park entrance fee.
- Up to four hours of waiting time for the pilot while the passengers enjoy the view from the rim.
- Another 90-minute scenic flight back to Phoenix.
- 30 minutes post-flighting the aircraft.
Don’t you think that’s worth more than $500?
Even if my hourly operating costs were zero — and I assure you that they’re much higher than that — at $500 I’d have to fly every single day, without personal compensation, for nearly two full years just to bring in enough revenue to cover the acquisition costs of the aircraft.
The reality is that $500 doesn’t even put a dent in my hourly operating costs for three hours of flight time. So I’d be doing the flight at a serious loss.
It it really possible that these people have no concept of what it costs to own and operate a helicopter?
My response was polite but to the point:
No, I’m sorry. That’s not possible. Our trips to the Grand Canyon start at $1,695 per flight (not per person). It’s a three-hour round trip flight with up to four hours on the ground. We are not permitted to overfly the Grand Canyon.
We offer a tour of Phoenix from Deer Valley airport for $495 per flight. It’s about an hour long and covers most of the Phoenix area.
You can find more information about all of our services, including pricing, at http://www.flyingmair.com/.
What’s interesting about this is that I’m one of the few helicopter operators based in Phoenix that will even make the flight from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon. Most operators either aren’t Part 135 (which is required for a flight like this) or don’t want to take their aircraft offline for a whole day. The few that do charge a heck of a lot more than I do. I guess what I’m saying is that not only is it impossible for them to find such a flight for two for $500, but I’m likely the cheapest option around.
But it bothers me that people think I’m making a windfall on every flight I conduct. I’m not. I’m just asking for what I consider fair compensation for the use of my aircraft and my personal services.
If it’s too much, I’m sorry — but my prices are firm and that’s the way it is.
I’ll serve the folks who can afford my services and appreciate what they’re getting for their money.