Travelling from Saint Tropez to Nice can, at the busiest times of year, take over three hours by car. But 20 minutes is all it takes at any time of year with Héli Sécurité (private flight €1,150 for five passengers), a smart online helicopter booking service that operates across the French and Italian Rivieras, and the Swiss and French Alps.
The only French company authorised to operate on Europe’s most popular helicopter route (the Nice-Monaco round trip, €280 per passenger), Héli Sécurité’s 14-strong fleet offers private luxury transfers between destinations including Courchevel, Meribel, Val d’Isère, Chamonix, Corsica, Annecy, Chambery, Lyon, Geneva and Gstaad. There are also personal chauffeur transfers to takeoff points and from landing spots to passengers’ final destinations – be they a yacht, a home, a restaurant or a club.
Standard online bookings are made via one easy-to-use menu, while more personalised itineraries can be arranged by email or through a 24/7 phone line. The company has three key bases, in Grimaud, Annecy and Cannes, and its range of choppers includes the Dauphin EC 155, the Ecureuil AS 350 Single and AS 355 Twin Engine, the EC130 B4, the Colibri EC 120 and the Bell 429.
On a recent trip in the Dauphin from Nice to Saint Tropez, my pilot Xavièr handed me a pair of noise-cancelling headphones on which I could hear all the radio communications, before we followed the rocky white coastline south at 280km/h, a bird’s eye view of the berthed superyachts at Antibes and Cannes to our right, the sparkling expanse of turquoise Mediterranean to our left.
Inland, stunning private villas with infinity pools abound amid the dense greenery. Spotting a beauty under construction on a promontory facing the sea, I ask Xavièr if he knows to whom it belongs, as it recedes behind us. Obligingly, he reverses to take a closer look (up until this point I had no idea that helicopters could reverse at speed, mid-flight). “Zlatan Ibrahimović,” he says.
Héli Sécurité is perfect for traffic-avoidance during events such as the Cannes Film Festival or the Monaco Grand Prix, or just for a spot of unrivalled sightseeing. Xavièr says his favourite route is Nice to Courchevel. "All our pilots would say the same,” he says. “The view from the Mediterranean to the French Alps is spectacular.”