Need a ride in busy Beijing? Dial-a-chopper takes off

Need a ride in busy Beijing? Dial-a-chopper takes off
Passengers take selfies near a helicopter ready to take off in Beijing on May 15, 2015.

BEIJING - A trial helicopter hailing service jointly launched by Chinese general aviation operator Reignwood Star Co Ltd and China's biggest taxi hailing platform proved a hit at the weekend in the congested capital of Beijing, the operator said on Monday.

More than 10,000 applicants signed-up for the helicopter service using Didi Kuaidi's platform, but only 100 managed to hail a ride, Lv Gang, Reignwood Star's marketing chief, told Reuters.

"It was a three-day trial run from May 15. So many people signed up for it, but we didn't have the capacity to accommodate them," said Lv.

The 110-km Beijing-Tianjin round trip in a Bell-429 helicopter cost 3,500 yuan (S$744) per person, while the round trip to suburban Yanxi Lake cost 1,999 yuan.

Helicopter leisure flights are a new concept in China where the military controls most of the airspace. Reignwood must apply for regulatory approval for tours one day in advance, even though Beijing has simplified flight approval procedures for private aircraft since late 2013.

China is expected to become one of the world's biggest small aviation markets in the next five years as Beijing gradually lifts restrictions on flying at low altitude.

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