It’s no secret that the pandemic has gutted business for airlines. But smaller sectors of the air travel industry—like helicopter tours—have also been deeply affected by the sharp downturns in demand. Most helicopter sightseeing companies across the U.S. shuttered for weeks or even months starting in March 2020 as local restrictions fluctuated and tourism numbers waned.
With the COVID-19 outbreak nearing the one-year mark in the U.S., helicopter tour companies are not only figuring out how to reopen with new safety protocols, but attempting to pivot their offerings based on current demand. Some have even found ways to improve their experiences for travelers.
“What we’ve done is we’ve really slowed our operation down, which has been pretty good,” says Eric Hamp, director of operations and a tour pilot for Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, which reopened its bases on Oahu, Maui, and the Island of Hawaii last October. In addition to mask requirements, temperature checks, and social distancing, Blue Hawaiian has implemented new aircraft deep-cleaning protocols. That has been a silver lining, according to Hamp: The additional down time between flights means crews have a chance to get to know their passengers before boarding the helicopter.