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Passenger Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to the most commonly asked questions related to taking helicopter rides or tours with a list of all frequently asked questions.

You, the passenger - or customer - will often have an unanswered question in the lead up to taking a helicopter tour; so I hope to eliminate any doubt or curiosity by answering it now.

Helicopter tour companies vary greatly be country to country, though often the answers to the most common questions can be similar around the globe.

So here I go, allow me to ease your mind by answering all common questions or concerns that are frequently asked by customers as they embark on there first helicopter ride or tour.

1. Am I guaranteed to see all sights on tour

Specific, carefully selected helicopter tours, such as over or in the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone or other national parts worldwide should go ahead as planned, by seeing all sights you've paid to see.

One reason why the tour outlined in the flightplan might not go ahead may be due to the weather.

Weather will not often delay or cancel the helicopter tour over top tourist hotspots or national parts; but poor weather, and so poor visibility will prevent you viewing the sights miles away.

If you're seated in the middle seat in the back, its here where views are limited.

2. Are kids allowed on helicopter rides

Children of all ages are usually permitted to fly on helicopter tours, providing they're occupied by a parent or carer as to make sure there belts are kept on and can be looked after.

Toddlers over 2 years on most flights will need to be sat on there own seat, which needs to be paid for with the price of an adult ticket.

If the child is under 24 months, then they can still fly but need to be fastened on the parents lap. Under certain circumstances a young child can fly on the front passenger seat, but rarely are permitted to.

Never will a group of children be allowed to fly without supervision of an adult.

3. Best time of day to fly

Pay very close attention to the helicopter tour times announced on the companies web site. All tours are hand picked for sightseeing at the best time of the day.

Early morning flights to mid day should be suited for all as its the brightest time of the day; allowing you to see at the furthest distance well making perfect photography conditions.

Think of the summer time as the longest days so all applies later into the afternoon and early evening.

So, if you can, book a helicopter ride for mid-morning to mid-day to allow for the brightest time, and that's if the weather doesn't spoil things.

4. Cancellation due to weather

Light rain and even a sprinkle of snow won't delay or stop you taking your heli ride; what does cancel helicopter tours is pouring rain, thunder, lightening, heavy snow fall and hail stones.

If any of these weather conditions happen before your flight, then it may not get cancelled at all, but rather pushed back until the weather as subsided, if it does.

If cancellation occurs due to the weather, it likely because the helicopter company deems the poor visibility due to long spells of fog or mist won't ease off in a suitable time.

Therefore, they will contact you to advice on a new time and day; or you'll be given the chance to cancel all together - results in a full refund at no cost to you.

5. Cancellation policy

So if a cancellation occurs on the companies part due to poor visibility or unforeseen circumstances; the in that case you will be given the chance to reschedule or cancel for a refund.

However, if the customer chooses to cancel there up and coming helicopter tour, its quite possible the company won't give you a full refund - instead, choosing to deduct up to 20% to cover loses.

If canceling two weeks or up to a month before your flight, then there's a higher probability of receiving a full refund. Well the cancellation dates get nearer to your flight, the less you'll receive back.

Worst still, its possible if your flights within 24 hours, then your total price will not be refundable at all.

6. Can I arrange a customised tour

To insure the passenger receives the best helicopter flight for there money, the company would refine there tour flightplan over the course of a year, 2 years or how long they've been in business.

Therefore, expect to receive the best helicopter tour available with the selected tour on hand.

If you wish to make arrangements for a custom helicopter tour, then you'll need to look around the heli services available for the country or county/state you wish to take the tour.

Not a lot of helicopter companies make changes to there tour for various reasons. First, it takes time to schedule a flightplan; second there's areas that are restricted to fly over.

So if you wish to make a custom tour - and a handful of services do - then be sure to shop around.

7. Can I choose my seat

Well this is a difficult one because helicopter flights are arranged on what is called 'Weight and Balances' - well in the USA it is - which requires the weight of people to be distributed evenly.

Which will result in you not sitting in the seat you plan too, or worse; you'll end up in the middle seat when you won't be able to photograph - or have less visibility away from the window.

Its absolutely worth contacting the heli tour company to enquiry about the seating arrangement policy.

For sure, companies may offer your own seat no questions asked, though on the otherhand this may be an extra service, so you'll be charged.

If you know you'll be seated on a three-seat helicopter, then all passengers will sit next to the window.

8. Can I fly with limited mobility

If you're not in a wheelchair and want to take a helicopter ride; most companies will not decline you if you can sit upright and stay comfortable on a seat.

If you're wheelchair bound but still have mobility, then this will depend highly on the helicopter model in use for your flight.

If its a small, three seater-helicopter of limited space, this will make it difficult for you to access and exit the helicopter.

But if you're limited to a wheelchair only with no mobility; its highly likely the company won't be able to comply with your wish, as helicopters do not take on wheelchairs.

9. Can I request doors-off tour

Taking a doors-off helicopter tour is quite possibly the best way to take a flight of this kind. It offers unrestrictive views with no reflective glass windows or door frames obstructing your view.

Not all helicopter tour companies offer this add-on service, nor should you have to pay extra if they do.

Taking a doors off helicopter ride is usually Hawaiian centric; meaning you're likely to only fly in a heli with the doors removed around the Hawaii islands - and therefore, countries with a similar climate.

New York City based helicopter tour companies also off this service, so be sure to checkout services in both locations if this is where you want to fly.

If its not mentioned online or offline, then they probably don't make flights with doors off.

10. Can I reschedule my flight

Helicopter tour companies are flexible when it comes to rescheduling your flight, as its a common thing that is out of the customers hands - and they know that.

So therefore, they will allow you to reschedule your helicopter ride if you need to, providing its out of a 24 hour timeframe in most circumstances.

Therefore, more than 24 hours should give the heli service time to make the rearrangements without coursing rescheduling problems if its less than say 24 hours.

If you need to reschedule your flight under the 24 hour time frame - and that doesn't relate to all services as cut off times vary or there are non at all - it may occur a service charge for inconvenience.

11. Can I sit in the front seat

Absolutely you can sit in the front seat but this will be determined on the day. Pilot's need to distribute weight across the helicopter.

So if the weight cannot be evenly distributed with you as a priority in the front seat, your front seat booking will be cancelled as so you'll have to sit in the back.

To guarantee a front seat if you meet the weight requirements; you must book the front seat if you're given the opportunity well booking.

Not all helicopter tour companies offer such a service, but when they do it will cost you more for what is an upgrade.

12. Can I talk to the pilot during flight

Professional helicopter ride companies tend to recruit highly professional pilots who are trained or at least polite enough to chat to his or her passengers.

When pilots find it hard to talk, it could be that they a a little shy or just plain rude.

Given the opportunity you should be able to communicate with the pilot via your headset; but they will ignore you if they quickly need to speak with air traffic.

Talk to the pilot as you would with your fellow passengers; as you'll remember too as you would of been instructed how-to during your safety briefing.

13. Can I take pictures or videos

Never will a helicopter tour company reject photography of any kind; they will reject flash photography so its important you know how to switch off the flash on your phone or, and DSLR camera.

Not all companies but a handful will make sure your phone, primarily your iPhone - is strapped into a wrist strap as to prevent dropping it in flight, which they will provide if that's the case.

If taking along a DSLR camera then you must wear the neck strap at all times, preferring to remove the lens cap before securing it into a zip pocket.

Generally speaking, up to two photography devices can be brought along at one time.

14. Can my toddler sit on my lap

Rule of thumb is toddlers under age 2 must sit on a parents lap in flight. Two and older then the child must be booked onto there own seat - paying a full adult price.

When taking a toddler under 2 years the parent will need to be strapped in for both the adult and child.

If you intend to take pictures rather than simply enjoying the ride; then bringing a child along on your lap may be rejected as you'll become a nuisance.

When taking a toddler who must sit on your lap, its probable the child goes FREE so you won't have to pay for an additional seat.

15. Could I get motion sickness

If you're someone who gets motion sickness well riding in a car or public transport such as the bus or train, then motion sickness will effect you in a helicopter.

Sufferers of motion sickness should not be taking a helicopter ride, so its important to let the company know so they can advice such as providing sick bags.

If you do decide to fly and you're allowed to proceed; then a helicopter service in the know, will know not to seat you in a seat that is facing backwards.

Be sure to mention this to the helicopter service so you are seated facing forwards, not back.

16. Do I need photo I.D.

In most cases, you absolutely do need a form of I.D. with you before you fly; failing to provide a valid I.D. will prevent you from flying.

If flying locally then a photo I.D. should be sufficient, such as a driving license - though if traveling from abroad then you'll need to bring your passport along with you.

Not always needed but where a photo I.D. is needed is in major cities or helicopter ride companies who fly out many tourists.

Locations where I.D.'s are needed are in the USA, but so does it apply within Europe.

17. Do I pay full price for children

Rarely will a helicopter ride service offer child prices or reductions for small children. The prices you see are prices per seat - not prices per adult or child.

So you will have to pay full price for a child as they would need to sit in there own seat.

If you're bringing along a toddler under 2 years; then there's no price associated with those 24 months and under, so they fly free.

However, toddlers will need to be fastened onto your lap in order to qualify as a free flight.

18. Do I tip the pilot

There's absolutely no need to tip the pilot outside of the USA, though you may feel you'll need to if taking a ride anywhere throughout the USA.

Tipping in the USA is common through all industries, so it wouldn't be out of order to tip a pilot.

If you do choose to tip the helicopter pilot you might want to do so when your back on the ground after your flight, before handing over the tip to the pilot directly.

Though the pilot might not be equipped to hold cash so you might want to hand over his or her tip to the people in the helicopter centre.

19. Do we fly at night

Helicopter rides for the general public or visiting tourists will take part throughout the morning into the late afternoon - even into the evening if there's plenty of daylight left.

Never will you take a helicopter ride at night for two reasons; one, you won't be able to see any sights if its dark; two, the night sky becomes more hazardous with less visibility.

However, if you've arranged to take a night time or romantic sunset theme flight then sure; expect to take a helicopter ride at night.

Under certain circumstances, there may be low lighting or it might be dark as you arrive back at the heliport after a long helicopter tour - such as a Grand Canyon sightseeing tour out of Las Vegas.

20. Do you fly over cities

Where you depart from in major cities then yes you will fly over major cities. However, as a rule of thumb you won't necessarily be flying over cities, or alteast in the built up areas.

For example, a London helicopter ride will depart from Battersea, so you'll be flying over London but not the city centre - which tends to be the area passengers want to see most.

Instead you'll still see all the sights but from a far.

If taking a helicopter ride in New York, then that's different. Skyscrapers will obstruct major streets and tourist attractions, so would be limited somewhat, as you'll stick to flying over the river as oppose to the densely populated city.

21. How high do we fly

The height you'll be flying is what is known as attitude in aircraft speech; so when taking a helicopter ride expect to be flying anywhere between 1500ft to 2500ft.

Where you'll be taking a helicopter tour attitude matters as built up busy cities will result in you flying higher so its quieter for residents below.

Whereas flying over the Grand Canyon or other major national parts will allow you to fly high to see as far as the eye can see - to flying under 1000ft to see the wonder up close.

As it happens, you'll want to fly high as to take the best pictures and see all the sights.

22. How should I book my flight

To book a helicopter ride you should consider doing so ASAP, so up to a couple of weeks in advanced would be the minimum time, with up to a month or two better still.

When booking your flight you should order your seat online as to be presented with any special offers that may be running at the time of booking.

Ordering a helicopter ride over the phone has its advantages; so such as asking questions that would otherwise not be available online.

So make sure you book your flight way in advanced to be guaranteed a booking.

23. I am afraid to fly

If you're afraid to fly then its quite possible taking a helicopter ride is not for you. Its one thing flying in a airplane, but you'll really be going through the emotions in a helicopter.

So if you're scared to fly then its probably best you forget about a helicopter ride.

If you don't have a history of flying and you're just a little nervous to fly; then that's OK, its perfectly fine to be nervous as many people are.

Instead, you'd want to get your head on straight by forgetting about flying, all while remembering the wonderful sights you'll get to see.

24. I am pregnant

Pregnant women are allowed to fly in a helicopter just as you're permitted to on an airliner; it is recommended you seek medical advice from your doctor before doing so.

Helicopters cruise at a comfortable attitude that doesn't change the human body.

So flying above 5000ft could see people's nose bleed; where helicopter tour companies will only fly between 1500ft to 2500ft, so you that's something not to worry about.

If you're heavily pregnant then that will change everything in terms of comfort; more so the seatbelt might not fit around you, or at least fit in a way that would be comfortable to baby.

25. Is there a minimum age requirement

You'll be pleased to know there is not usually an age requirement for flying in a helicopter; though a baby may not be allowed as the noise canceling headset would not fit or stay put over there little heads.

Toddlers under 24 months will be permitted to sit on a parents lap; whereas 2 years and up they will sit on a there own seat - paid in full.

From about age 11 to 12 years helicopter services will permit this age group to sit on the front seat all while being allowed to fly on there own without supervision.

There is no age limit for older people just as long as you're able.

26. Is there a weight limit

Most helicopter services will have a weight limit for each passenger; with a weight limit of 300lbs (113kgs) per passenger, or similar.

Heavier passengers will often be allowed to fly still, though additional fee's may apply.

Weight limit for all passengers is taken before the safety briefing so that your seating arrangement can be made.

In doing so the helicopter tour company will make sure passenger weight is evenly distributed.

27. Time to arrive before flight

Helicopter companies will advice you to arrive at the heliport anywhere between 20 to 30 minutes before departure time.

But why not play it safe while arriving at least 1 hour before your departure to make sure there's time to settle at the heliport, well also viewing the helicopters landing and taking off.

Once you've arrived at the heliport you'll be given a quick safety briefing, all while trouble with photography equipment or what you are wearing could arise...

So give yourself lots of time to make adjustments and fix any problems that unexpectedly happen.

28. What can I take onboard the helicopter

As explained in your safety briefing what you can bring aboard the helicopter for the duration of your ride is only essentials that would be allowed, as everything else will need to be left behind.

So all photography devices such as your digital camera and phone will be allowed, providing the flash is switched off.

You can bring sunglasses but you don't have to wear them, so make sure you have pockets as to avoid carrying them the entire trip.

Under certain circumstances a hat to stay warm will be allowed, but avoid bringing gloves or a scarf as accessories such as this can cause a nuisance around the chopper.

29. What if I am flying by myself

First thing, if you're flying by yourself then you may have less hassle in regards to worrying about sitting next to your companion at all times, as this is not a guarantee.

When taking a helicopter flight by yourself you could upgrade to sit in the front seat if circumstances allow it, though there is an upgrade price to pay if they don't sit you in the front seat originally.

Taking a flight by yourself will result in you sitting with strangers, though other passengers may be in a similar situation to you.

When choosing to take a flight by yourself, know this does not put any restrictions or prevents you flying at all - if you book up you will be entitled to fly regardless.

30. What is a safety briefing

Before you can take a helicopter ride you'll be taken through a quick safety briefing covering all aspects of your flight, centred around safety only.

So if you're taking camera equipment then you'll be told how to hold it on your lap with the neck strap in use; they will also tell you to turn off flash on the camera or, and phone.

If your helicopter ride flies over water then you might need to wear a lifejacket; so you'll be instructed how to use such a jacket in an emergency.

Often a company will provide motion sickness bags, so will instruct everybody how to use them.

In addition, you'll be told how to communicate with the pilot in flight before the staff take your weight and make your seating arrangement that distributes the weight evenly.

31. What kind of helicopter do I fly in

Depending on where you are in the world, the helicopter model used depends on if you're in a big city or if the ride takes part in a more rural location.

Throughout the world all helicopters listed below would be what you'll take on a helicopter ride:

  • Airbus ACH125: also known as the Squirrel
  • Airbus ACH130: primarily used by big helicopter tour companies
  • Bell 206L LongRanger: classic 6 seater passenger helicopter
  • Bell 407 GXi TH-XX: upgrade to the LongRanger above
  • MD 500E: 500 series helicopters are used throughout Hawaii
  • Robinson R44: 3 seater, cheap to operate
  • Robinson R66: 4 seater upgrade that is still cheap to run

Major helicopter tour companies prefer helicopters with a big passenger capacity with lower operating costs; so would use the Airbus ACH130, and a model you'll come to recognize.

Then there's the Bell models in the older Bell 206L LongRanger along with its newest release, the Bell 407 helicopter.

Primarily used on the Hawaii Islands; the helicopter of choice here is the MD 500 series of helicopters.

If you're taking a cheap helicopter ride for up to three people; then its quite possible you'll be taking one of the Robinson R44 or R66.

32. What should I bring along

To play it safe wherever you're in the world you should bring a form of identification. It might not be needed if its a small town helicopter ride.

But big city helicopter services tend to ask for forms of photo I.D. before you can fly; so play it safe and bring your passport along.

Once airborne you will absolutely need to bring your phone to take pictures, better still a digital DSLR camera will be ideal for taking professional shots.

farther to that, don't forget to bring sunglasses as the sunshine might be unavoidable, even if you don't intend to wear shades.

33. What should I wear

First thing make sure you're comfortable as there's no undressing or making adjustments well you're strapped in up in the air.

What you should be wearing is what is appropriate for the day. What you wear should be comfortable as you drive or take public transport, as the conditions will be similar.

Regarding your footwear is the most important topic; make it so you're wearing sneakers as the lace up prevents them falling off, all while the rubber sole will help with grip.

Sandals or high heels can be worn but shouldn't be rejected. Its just its made more difficult as you climb in and out of the helicopter.

34. Will I fly in rain

Did you know a little sprinkle of rain in the air well taking a helicopter ride is unlike to be seen on the window screen as the main rotors powerful force simply brushes the rain away.

You will be flying in light, reasonable rain flow as it will not effect the helicopter at all. If the light rain brings high winds then its really the wind that will cancel your flight.

Downpours along with high winds results in little visibility so will sure ground all helicopters as instructed by law.

If you arrive at the helicopter centre with a little rain in the air don't despair, its highly likely the flight will still go ahead.

35. Will my flight be private

Whenever you book a helicopter tour around the world you'll be booking a flight that is shared; so you'll be flying with other likeminded passengers such as yourself.

What this means is the helicopter ride will not be private as others will join you as the helicopter service need to book all seats in order to operate profitably.

However, if you have the money you can book a private helicopter ride by booking all seats.

To do that you will be charged from 4 to 6 seats which will depend on the passenger capacity.

36. Will there be other passengers

When taking a helicopter ride know that you will be sharing a ride with other passengers you don't know as the helicopter service needs to fill all seats in order to fly.

If you're booking a flight for two then it could be you'll ride along with your companion, though this is not a guarantee as the weight is distributed so may result in you not be sat next to a friend.

The only way to guarantee you'll sit with people you know is to book a private helicopter ride; meaning you'll need to book all seats so its just you - or friends and family.

If you don't wish to sit with random passengers, then this is not for you. Though it might be worth your time to book the front seat along with the pilot.