Heli USA expands its aerial outings to Oahu

HONOLULU -- Is world-famous Waikiki in need of fresh product?

The principals of Heli USA thought so.

The helicopter tour company, based in Las Vegas, recently started four new aerial tours over Oahu in an effort to spice up an island often forgotten by all but international visitors.

Agents who tend to steer clients to other islands should know that Heli USA values their partnership enough to offer a base commission of 15% -- going up to 25%, depending on volume.

Pleasant and Suntrips are now including Heli USA in some packages. The helicopter outfit has also created sunset dinner-cruise/Waikiki night-flight packages with Atlantas Adventures.

In other options, City Lights and Navatek Sunset dinner cruise packages include hotel transfers, two-hour dinner cruises off Waikiki Beach and a 28-mile flight over the Arizona Memorial and Pearl Harbor, Punchbowl Crater, Diamond Head and downtown Waikiki. The price is $149 plus a $3 per person fee.

Already well established on Kauai, Heli USA's move into Oahu gave Turner a chance to share with passengers a bird's eye view of Waikiki, which he calls "one of the most spectacular skylines in the world."

Guests receive champagne at the terminal, then fly 28 miles over downtown and Waikiki to Diamond Head and back.

Flight time for day tours is between 30 and 45 minutes, with the helicopter traveling at 120 mph over Oahu's most scenic areas, including the Koolau Mountains and the North Shore. Night flights last 10 to 15 minutes.

Heli USA has four helicopters on Kauai and two on Oahu, where it runs four or five flights per day.

Turner said the company sees potential in the Hawaii market and will continue to send more aircraft and expand its offerings as demand increases.

Turner also said he feels that many Americans will avoid Europe this summer and choose Hawaii instead.

He expects advance bookings to drive the market, and he expects to target those bookings with sales offices in Australia, Holland, Japan and the U.K. Heli USA's customer base is the average individual traveler.

"Our market is the normal visitor," said Turner. "We're not upscale at all."

He compared the company to Southwest Airlines in its attempt to provide good service at affordable prices.

"We go for volume to be profitable," he said. Eventually, "we'd like to be on all the major islands. We look ahead very carefully."

Prices for the day tours start at $89 per person and include roundtrip Waikiki hotel transfers to Honolulu Airport. The maximum number of passengers is six per flight.

An agent area on the company's Web site, at www.heliusa.com, contains information about commissions and booking instructions. For more information, call (866) 936-1234 or (808) 826-6591.

Sales pitch

• Remind them that one of the best ways to see and appreciate the beauty of the islands is by air.

• Stress that Heli USA operates under the same regulations as a small commuter airline, and its safety record is excellent.

• Emphasize the benefits of the tour and the area covered rather than actual flying time, which may sound brief.

To contact reporter Katherine Nichols, send e-mail to [email protected].

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