UPDATE, 8:30 PM: After cease and desist letters from the Sheriff, threats to arrest pilots and an upcoming court hearing set for Monday, the high-flying and high-priced chopper rides to the Sundance Film Festival are now over. Today, both Uber and Blade have grounded the helicopters that they were offering festgoers a quick ride in and out Park City on. “We are not flying,” a Blade spokesperson said Saturday.
On Friday, Sheriff Justin Martinez wrote to both transportation companies warning them they were in violation of Summit County code, were a potential safety hazard and to stop their chopper services. Just so there was no confusion, the Sheriff also said yesterday that “future landings may result in the arrest of the pilot and the aircraft may be subject to impound.” Neither Uber nor Blade gained permission to operate their chopper biz from the County, sources tell me, and a flood of complaints had come in from locals. Today, the County confirms to Deadline that citations have been issued against the property owners where the choppers were landing.
After an inconclusive court hearing later on January 22 but no backing down by Sheriff Martinez, Uber and Blade pulled the plug on their $200 – $565 1-way flights from Salt Lake City to landing zones on private property outside Park City. Official Sundance sponsor Uber tried to put the best face on the situation. “We may no longer be in the air, but Uber operations continue to soar on the ground where we remain committed to offering riders a world-class experience at the Sundance Film Festival, and to getting festival-goers from point A to point B reliably and safely,” said Uber spokesperson Taylor Patterson on Saturday.
Uber had planned to have chopper flights from SLC to Park City and back from January 21 – 24. Blade were looking to fly from January 21 -25.
PREVIOUS, JAN 21 AM: The big agencies may have pulled out of hosting big parties this year but even before the deals start at the Sundance Film Festival today, there’ll be high flyers – and not just because of the altitude of Park City. With both Blade and Uber offering helicopter rides from Salt Lake City to Park City for festgoers jetting into Utah, taking to the air to come to town may become the status symbol of this year’s Sundance.
With the Robert Redford-founded festival kicking off Thursday, the private plane company and the driving service could find themselves in heavy app competition as agents, talent and execs start arriving. For $595, Blade is offering a 6-seat helicopter 1-way 15-minute ride from SLC to a landing site off Main Street that will get you quickly down to the fest in a private car. Using the company’s app, potential passengers can book a flight in and out of the festival from 9 AM – 9 PM January 21 to 25 and get a bite and a drink at the lounge while waiting for their ride.
Picking up on what they’ve done before for Coachella and for visitors to the Hamptons, official Sundance sponsor Uber is teaming up with Airbus to offer a lift in the sky to and from SLC International Airport from today through Sunday, the fest’s busiest stretch. Though there are seemingly some concerns about permits, $200 in the day and $300 at night will get you a 1-way UberCHOPPER ride to Park City from SLC or the other way round. Landing at a private residence near the fest, UberCHOPPER carries five passengers and the app accessible service will operate from 12:30 – 8:30 PM – which means you might have to split town before a Midnight screening or that late premiere party, but you’ll be seeing the big picture, so to speak.
Uber also plans to have more that 200 drivers in and around Sundance during the fest if you are still old school and need to catch a land-based ride.