As The Blades Turn

Fly Blade, Inc.’s status at East Hampton Town’s airport appears to no longer be up in the air.

Town officials are working on a new license agreement with the company, which operates the Blade app, an Uber-like mobile application that arranges helicopter and seaplane flights, now that it has received certification as a 380 public charter, Town Attorney Michael Sendleski said on May 17.

The town revoked Fly Blade’s airport license agreement last month and requested the federal government conduct a review of the company’s practices over concerns it was using the airport improperly. The certification, which was applied for on May 3 and granted two days later, “covers the misuse,” Sendleski said.

The company was due to clear out of the airport by May 19, Sendleski said.

Along with the license revocation, the town board authorized Sendleski to file a complaint with the United States Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, seeking a review of Fly Blade’s practices and its consistency with federal regulations. The office regulates air transportation services and how they operate.

Fly Blade has previously violated federal law by engaging in air transportation as a direct and indirect air carrier without economic authority from the DOT and paid a fine of $40,000 as part of a signed consent order, according to the town.

Sendleski said the town has not yet received a response to its complaint.

Sag Harbor attorney Edward Burke Jr., who is representing the company, did not respond to requests for comment for this story. In a previous statement, Burke noted the company arranged helicopter and seaplane flights to multiple destinations in the northeast in full compliance with DOT regulations.

He stated the company had requested a meeting with town representatives to allow it to provide an understanding on how the company arranges flights within federal guidelines.

In other news, Fly Blade recently began arranging flights for Sound Aircraft Flight Enterprises, according to a letter emailed by the company to its customers.

The letter, which was obtained by The Independent, offers 24/7 customer service by text messaging, email, or phone. The service includes an all-weather guarantee of a complimentary Porsche sport utility vehicle to East Hampton on Fridays and Manhattan on Mondays in the event a flight is cancelled due to bad weather.

The letter also states Fly Blade flights will be serviced by advanced amphibious seaplanes such as the Grand Caravan EX, which boasts jet interiors. The document goes on to state that Sound will also continue facilitating bookings via phone and email, or customers can use the Blade App or website.

Sound Aircraft Flight Enterprises owner Cindy Herbst declined comment on the letter.

In a recent letter to customers, Sound’s former partner, Shoreline Aviation Seaplane Services owner John Kelly, stated his company parted ways with Sound after it opted for the Blade app to handle its bookings. The letter states that in April the company was provided a proposal, in which Fly Blade would take over the bookings and buy the “entire commuter inventory” at about 70 cents on the dollar, allowing Fly Blade to control the bookings and seats.

“Had we agreed to work with Blade, there would be no guarantee that our long-time passengers would continue to get preferred access to our flights, and no way for a customer to be sure that they would be placed on a Shoreline aircraft and not an aircraft operated by another of Blade’s providers. We declined the offer. We further informed [Cindy Herbst] that if she worked with Blade, we were done,” Kelly stated.

He said the company offered to buy Herbst out “at a price above the asset value, but worth cost,” and she did not answer the offer, but instead “stalled for time to answer.” By late April, Kelly states, customers began calling Shoreline to inform the company that they were unable to book seats for the summer. When his staff asked Sound what was transpiring, they refused to comment, and later a scheduled mailing with coupons was cancelled, according to Kelly’s letter.

Shoreline, which has been in business for 38 years, was able to “scramble” to set up its own reservation system and was running within a couple of days, according to Kelly’s letter.

When contacted for comment, Kelly reiterated a concern in his letter about longtime customers not receiving the same kind of service under the Blade app.

“This was merely a booking arrangement which just wasn’t working anymore,” he said.

Sendleski said he does not expect there will be an increase in traffic under Fly Blade’s new agreement with Sound.

“They are a crowd-sourcing charter company that basically tries to fill every seat. That doesn’t mean they are going to try to add additional flights,” he said.

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