Following Sir Richard Branson's announcement that his star-studded space venture, Virgin Galactic, would accept bitcoin payments, many other flight operators have been eager to get a piece of the bitcoin action.
Heliflight is one such operator. It began processing bitcoin payments for passengers on its low-cost sightseeing tour package back in November.
Passengers can fly from the company's private airport in Amersfoot, Utrecht to “almost any preferred location outside an airport". Destinations like Amsterdam and Paris can be reached by Heliflight's ex-Airforce pilots in a matter of hours.
Like many small business owners, Heliflight’s general manager Ton van Kempen was first introduced to the cryptocurrency after a tech-savvy employee involved in “bitcoinmania” pointed him to the currency’s possibilities.
Van Kempen later researched the benefits of bitcoin over regular fiat currencies, like his native euro, and decided to accept the fledgling coin. He said:
“Despite not being backed by a central bank or government, [bitcoin] offers something that no other regular currency can right now. Speed, ease of payments and the possibility of global transactions make bitcoin, all in all, a concept that has something to offer.”
He added: “Although bitcoin is in its infancy, we strive to be innovative in every part of our operation, and bitcoin payments fit with that."
The dutch company has been flying helicopters since the early 1990s. As van Kempen explains: “Back then we only had one small Schweitzer 300 helicopter, a machine used for inspection work, photo-flights and weddings."
In the years since, business has taken off and the company’s fleet has expanded. Heliflight is now one of the largest operators in the Netherlands, offering a range of onshore services, including: VIP packages, charter flights and sightseeing tours.
Bitcoin could seem an unlikely fit for a risk-adverse industry like aviation. However, Heliflight has chosen to use payment processor Bitpay for its transactions, a popular choice for many merchants in the bitcoin ecosystem.
“I see no good reason for web merchants not to accept bitcoin.”
Bitpay minimises the risks that come with bitcoin’s volatility since, at the end of the day, the company will receive payment in euros or other fiat currency.
More recently, the platform helped well-known game giant Zynga to accept bitcoin. Van Kempen added: “I see no good reason for web merchants not to accept bitcoin payments in this fashion."
Currently, Heliflight is only accepting bitcoin payments for its sightseeing packages, which cost between €49.95 and €179.00 and range from 7.5 minutes to half an hour.
As van Kempen explains, helicopter charters are quite expensive (the average price is around the €2,500 mark). As large sums are involved, van Kempen argues bitcoin's volatility is too much of a risk for the company's charter flights.
However, if bitcoin does stabilise, van Kempen sees no good reason not to roll out bitcoin payments to Heliflight's other service packages.
“We believe in staying innovative and are always looking for new concepts or ways of doing business, accepting bitcoins fits that. We will be ready to make further steps once it stabilizes."
Images via Heliflight