On a recent trip to Mexico, I decided to book a flight with Interjet. I booked this flight as it meant I got to fly onboard a Sukhoi Superjet, a regional jet built in Russia. My flight with Interjet was from Los Cabos to Toluca. Toluca is a city just west of Mexico City. The airport, Toluca International Airport (TLC), is often branded as Mexico City’s other airport.
Though the airport is just 40 or so miles from Mexico City International Airport (MEX), it’s not all that convenient, especially if you’re pressed for time and need to catch a connecting flight.
With my flight from Mexico City to Dallas (DFW) scheduled for 6 PM and my flight from Los Cabos arriving in Toluca around 1:30 PM, I knew I had around three and a half hours to get to Mexico City International Airport.
In most other cities, 3 hours is plenty of time to travel the distance between Toluca and Mexico City – just 41 miles. In the Mexico City area, however, I knew if I took ground transportation, I might be pressed for time.
Feeling particularly adventurous, I took to Google and typed the following into the search bar “Helicopter transfers in Mexico City.” That’s when I came across VOOM, an Airbus-backed helicopter taxi venture based in California but operating in Mexico City.
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Booking With VOOM
VOOM allows passengers to book via their website or their very intuitive mobile app. Prior to booking with VOOM, all users are required to set up an account. Setting up an account is easy and requires an email address and a password. I created an account and began searching for transfers between Toluca Airport and Mexico City International Airport.
The price of helicopter transfer and taxi services varies wildly from city-to-city. For example, in New York City, helicopter transfers between New York-LaGuardia (LGA) and Manhattan start at under $200 (~$195). In other cities, like Chicago, travelers wishing to take a helicopter from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Downtown Chicago will have to go through a charter company and request a quote. Needless to say, anyone, looking to travel via helicopter in the Chicago Area, can expect to pay close to $1000 for a quick ride.
In Mexico City, however, VOOM offers helicopter transfers starting at just $154. VOOM, essentially offering a Uber or Lyft-like service, allows you to receive an instant quote when booking. For a 20 to 25 minute private flight from Toluca (TLC) to Mexico City (MEX) with free ground transportation upon arrival, the price was just $249.
With VOOM reasonably priced, I had two options. I could take a taxi in a city notorious for taxi drivers gouging tourist. Not only could I not get an accurate estimate prior to taking a taxi from Toluca Airport to Mexico City Airport, but the drive from Toluca to Mexico City’s airport would also take anywhere from 90 minutes to over 2 hours.
The other option, VOOM, while somewhat pricey, provided me with peace of mind as I knew what time I’d be departing and just how much I would be spending. The possibility of missing my flight home would also be eliminated if I booked with VOOM. So, I went ahead and booked with VOOM.
The day before my flight, I received a phone call from a VOOM representative to confirm the details of my flight. The VOOM representative confirmed every detail of my upcoming flight and asked if I had any additional questions. Additionally, an email was sent with those same details shortly after the call.
On the day of my flight, upon arriving in Toluca, I made a quick stop at the American Express Centurion Lounge at the airport to get some work done and grab a drink. After killing a little under an hour at the lounge, I hailed an Uber to take me to the helicopter.
The only aspect of the flight I wasn’t completely sure about was the pre-flight experience. I wasn’t sure if the hangar from which the flight would depart would be just that, a hangar and nothing more, or a private terminal with some amenities. Either way, I didn’t care, I just didn’t want to have to spend much time sitting in a folding chair in an industrial hangar without Wi-Fi or power outlets as I had quite a bit of work to get done.
Transportes Aereos Pegaso
The helicopter flight was set to depart from Pegaso Aviation (Transportes Aereos Pegaso), an FBO and private terminal located just south of the main passenger terminal. After a short drive from the terminal, I arrived at the hangar.
It became quite clear that Pegaso Aviation catered to a much more affluent customer base. I was certainly not their average customer.
Pegaso Aviation operates a massive office building and private terminal on the grounds of Toluca Airport. I assumed I wouldn’t get to take advantage of any of the luxury services and that I’d be told to wait near the helicopter. To my surprise, this wasn’t the case.
I presented my passport to a security agent who was waiting at the main entrance. Unfortunately for me, only one employee at Pegaso Aviation spoke English. As a guest in Mexico, I did my best to communicate in my broken Spanish. Chartering a private helicopter through a company called “VOOM” didn’t translate very well as the security agents were obviously confused.
Finally, the English speaker arrived at the entrance and explained to her colleagues that I was in the right place and that I was taking a helicopter to Mexico City Airport. She then brought me into a private terminal consisting of three rooms, two private waiting areas, and one communal waiting area. I was the only passenger in the terminal.
She offered me a beverage and informed me of a few details of the flight. I went with a Corona and made my way to one of the private waiting areas overlooking the apron.
As I was working on my laptop and charging my devices, she informed me that we would not be able to depart early as there was congestion at Mexico City International Airport. Not being able to leave ahead of schedule wasn’t a big deal for me as it just meant more time in a comfy air condition private terminal.
Around 10 minutes prior to scheduled departure time, the Pegaso representative informed me that the pilot was ready to depart.
A (Very) Quick Departure
I made my way out onto the apron with my bags. Another representative from Pegaso Aviation took my bags and brought them to the helicopter.
One of the employees at Pegaso Aviation saw me taking pictures of the helicopter and offered to take my picture in front of the aircraft. Of course, I accepted her offer.
After a quick photo shoot, it was off to Mexico City. I hopped in the helicopter, put on my seatbelt, protective earwear, and the door was quickly shut behind me. The pilot looked over and asked if I was ready. I said yes and gave him a thumbs up. Within 20 seconds, we were taxing to the runways for takeoff.
For the first time in my life, I was genuinely nervous about a flight. I had never been in a helicopter and didn’t know what to expect.
First off, helicopters get airborne much quicker than winged-aircraft. From the time the rotors and engines were started to take off, we were probably only on the ground for a minute. Even then, we weren’t really on the ground, just taxing at a low altitude.
Once the helicopter got above a few hundred feet, I began to feel less nervous. I gazed outside the window taking in the mixed landscape.
Mexico City might very well be one of the best places to take a helicopter as the area provides you with views of the city, rural surrounding areas, and mountainous terrain between Toluca and Mexico City.
On the short flight to the airport, we flew directly over Santa Fe, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Mexico City. I managed to snap a few pictures of the hotel I had stayed in on a past trip, the Westin Santa Fe.
As we got close to the airport, I managed to catch a glimpse of the Paseo de la Reforma and central parts of the city.
About five minutes from the airport, I began noticing a handful of much larger commercial aircraft lining up for approaching into the airport. I was able to hear the pilot communicating with the tour as well as other aircraft talking with the tour. The final few moments of the flight were as close to AvGeek heaven as one can get.
Arrival At Mexico City International Airport
And just like that, the flight was over. With the rotor still spinning, a representative from VOOM opened the door to the helicopter and welcomed me to Mexico City International Airport.
Another VOOM representative was waiting near the door to some unmarked facility. That representative asked me how my flight was and guided me through a maintenance facility. She asked me which terminal I was headed to and informed me of the time it would take to drive over to the terminal.
VOOM offers free terminal transfers at Mexico City International Airport which is probably for the best. The helicopter landing pads at the airport are located maybe a half mile to a mile from any main road in a secure area. I can’t imagine trying to describe the location of the arrival pad to an Uber or taxi driver.
The VOOM representative who drove me over to the terminal was unbelievably kind. She pointed out points of interest like the Presidential Hangar and made small talk to keep me company on the 15-minute drive to the terminal.
When we arrived at the entrance of the terminal, she unloaded my bags and wished me a safe and pleasant flight. For what it’s worth, the service I paid for was a helicopter ride. The driver didn’t have to go above and beyond to make the ride pleasant and enjoyable as I wasn’t paying a cent for the free transfer.
Though $250 for ground transportation isn’t cheap and might not be a practical option for everyone, in this case, it made just as much sense as a stressful 2+ hour drive through one of the most congested cities in the world.
Opting for a helicopter transfer with VOOM provided me peace of mind over a taxi or an Uber ride. I knew what I was going to spend and I knew that I would make my flight home.
The price was certainly reasonable for the service. Additionally, VOOM did an amazing job of communicating the details of my flight ahead of departure. I was pleasantly surprised by the service offered both prior to departure and arrival. Though I’ll probably avoid any flights to or from Toluca Airport in the future, I will definitely book with VOOM if I ever need to get from the remote airport to Mexico City.