California-based urban air mobility (UAM) startup Archer Aviation has announced its first commercial air taxi route. Using its Midnight eVTOL air taxi, Archer plans to transport passengers between Newark Liberty Airport’s United Airlines hub and a helipad in New York City.
The new air taxi route will allow passengers to travel from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport, located on the East River near Wall Street, to Newark Liberty Airport in under 10 minutes. By car, the trip normally takes close to an hour during rush hour traffic.
While Archer has not yet put an exact price on these trips, a company spokesman told FutureFlight that the airfare per passenger will be “roughly in line with the price of vehicle ridesharing services,” such as Uber and Lyft. The aircraft will be able to seat four passengers plus one pilot.
In August, Archer announced that it had received a $10 million down payment from United Airlines for 100 of its Midnight eVTOL air taxis. This pre-delivery payment was the first of its kind in the eVTOL industry, as other eVTOL aircraft manufacturers have only announced provisional sales that don’t appear to be backed up by any formal payments or deposits. United and Archer also formed a joint advisory committee earlier this year to explore operational arrangements for Archer’s air taxi network.
“Once operational, electric air taxis will fundamentally change how United customers experience comfort, convenience, and efficiency during their commutes to the airport,” said Michael Leskinen, president of United Airlines Ventures. “Archer’s New York to Newark route marks another important benchmark towards providing a carbon-neutral and safe commute that drastically reduces the travel time and produces a fraction of the sound emitted by helicopters.”
With the ultimate goal of establishing a network of air taxi routes in and around urban areas, Archer plans to begin operations in 2025 with “trunk” routes that will carry airline passengers to and from airports and city centers. Once those routes have been established, the company will provide additional “branch” routes to connect surrounding communities.
While the route between Manhattan and Newark Liberty Airport is the first confirmed route that Archer has announced, it won't necessarily be the first route to actually begin operations. Archer also has plans to launch UAM routes in Los Angeles and Miami in 2025, although the company has not yet confirmed exactly where those first flights will take off and land.
“As guidelines for service are worked out with NYC officials and the FAA in the coming months and years, we'll be able to confirm an exact timeline for the launch of this route,” Archer’s spokesman told FutureFlight. “We are, though, still on track to launch our first flights in 2025 in L.A. and Miami.”
For Archer’s takeoff and landing site at Newark Liberty Airport, the company declined to specify if passengers will board and deboard airside or groundside. This means it is not clear if passengers will need to go through a TSA checkpoint after arriving at the airport or if there will be additional security measures at the helipad in Manhattan.
Archer also declined to comment on whether the Midnight aircraft will be able to operate in icing conditions during the winter months. While most airplanes can be deiced, helicopters are typically not certified to fly in icing conditions, regardless of whether they’re certified to operate under instrument flight rules.
Archer has not yet released many details about Midnight, the production version of its eVTOL aircraft, but the company plans to reveal the first Midnight next week during a special event at its test flight facility in central California.