Heli-Alps was founded in 2005 in Sion, Switzerland by four pilots who decided to translate their passion into a business after seeing a growing interest in helicopter travel in their region. The company has grown impressively in the time since, evolving and adapting to client needs in order to maintain a competitive edge in the business.
“Our strength lies in our availability and customer-oriented service,” says Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Jean-Daniel Berthod. “The most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing the smile of our clients after every flight,” he adds. Berthod notes that in the past, this concept of client-focused service did not really exist. “We saw that in our region, many companies did individual and VIP flights in addition to their core activities of transporting goods, but not the other way around.” He and his colleagues astutely recognised a niche that hadn’t been fully tapped, which was why they decided to launch Heli-Alps.
The bet has certainly paid off. Nearly a decade later, the company’s notable fleet counts 11 helicopters, all featuring elegant leather interiors, air conditioning and soundproofing systems, ensuring a truly exclusive and luxurious experience. The latest addition is a brand new twin engine Bell 429 that arrived this past May, the first to be operated in Switzerland. This deluxe craft features a considerably higher cruising speed than other models and a spacious cabin that seats seven in addition to the pilot. “The Bell 429 supports our new corporate vision and opens a new market for us,” says Berthod. He indicates that helicopters are becoming a much more common option for business trips, citing a number of advantages such as the point-to-point transit factor, saving clients invaluable time and discretion— they have years of experience working with VIPs and celebrities alike.
Heli-Alps has a considerable leisure offering as well—the company’s main destinations include Switzerland’s most posh resorts such as Gstaad, Verbier, Crans-Montana and Zermatt as well as all of the hotspots along the Côte d’Azur in France. “One of our most popular services is a scenic flight with a stop on a glacier,” says Berthod. In partnership with premium concierge and events company, Kando Events, which specialises in high-end, ‘once in a lifetime experiences’, Heli-Alps can offer client picnics or even fine dining at 3,400 metres complete with hand-carved snow tables and butlers in tailcoats. The roster of services is rounded out by aerial work (industrial, agricultural, surveillance) as well as 3D HD aerial filming and photography for movies or event coverage.
As a natural evolution of the company, Heli-Alps opened its Flight School in 2011. “There is a lot of demand and as we had already been teaching since 1987 with the Groupe Hélico Sion, and we decided it was time to professionalize the service,” says Berthod. In 2014, the school was upgraded to an Approved Training Organisation by the European Aviation Safety Agency. While this segment of the business is growing, Berthod emphasizes that the commercial flights still take absolute priority.
Heli-Alps seems poised for continued growth in the years to come. The company will soon begin Helicopter Emergency Medical Service activities using the new Bell 429. “We wanted to something more, collaborating with existing organisations like Air-Glaciers—they have the doctors and expertise, we have the helicopters,” says Berthod. He also said their plans to build a facility containing all of the company’s divisions will soon be underway. Heli-Alps’s mix of differentiated services and a customer-oriented luxury approach is proving to be a blend that works.
For more information: www.helialps.ch
Article by Christine Lee