LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Where’s the best place to watch fireworks on New Year’s Eve? One possible answer: from a helicopter near the Las Vegas Strip.
But be careful what you’re expecting if you try to book a fireworks flight. The one company that’s advertising the flights has sold out.
According to Joe Rajchel, public information administrator at Reid International Airport, a late-night lockdown of airspace around the Strip goes into effect every New Year’s Eve. The Federal Aviation Administration puts a Temporary Flight Restriction into place until the fireworks are over.
That rule keeps helicopters away from the Strip until the fireworks are over.
Papillon Helicopters reports this year’s tours are sold out. Prices started at $299 per person. Papillon was the only company in the valley advertising fireworks flights for New Year’s Eve this year.
According to Papillon, the fireworks tours will fly the “Las Vegas Strip tour route” plus an “oval racetrack pattern” west of the Strip along Russell Road (westbound), Decatur Boulevard (northbound), Charleston Boulevard (westbound) and Valley View Boulevard (southbound).
“The Fireworks Flight provides guests with unobstructed views of not only the Las Vegas Strip fireworks, but they’ll see fireworks across the entire valley,” according to Irit Langness, senior vice president of sales and marketing. “One of our most popular flights is our Strip Highlights Night Flight, so this tour combines the beauty of the Strip with the magic of the fireworks. It’s great for someone looking for a unique vantage point of the NYE fireworks.”
Jim Ogletree, director of operations for the flight department at 5 Star Helicopter Tours, said tours of the Strip are one of the company’s most popular offerings. He worked at Sundance helicopters when the company was doing fireworks flights. Sundance got out of the tour business in the summer of 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The view from Papillon’s route over the west valley isn’t really a great view of one of the best fireworks shows in the world, Ogletree said.
“Watching fireworks from the air … it’s pretty anticlimactic,” Ogletree said Monday. He points out that fireworks lose their punch when they’re not against a dark background, and the city lights don’t make a great background if you’re above eye-level with the show.
Photos provided by Papillon indicate there’s still a pretty spectacular show. The company also shows a YouTube video on its website that gives a better idea of what it’s like during the tour.
Ogletree has been on flights taking people to and from the Electric Daisy Carnival when fireworks were going off during the show at the Las Vegas Speedway, where EDC takes place each year.
“That was kind of cool,” he said, saying the helicopter was probably within 1,000 feet of the bursts. But air traffic controllers won’t let traffic anywhere near that close on New Year’s Eve on the Strip.
Papillon advertises its “New Year’s Eve Fireworks Flight” as a “25-30-minute flight circling the Las Vegas Strip with views of Fireworks display.”
The $299 (and up) price is higher than the normal $84 (and up) Papillon charges for a night flights on the Strip — but it’s also about twice as long as the normal night flight.
Maverick offers 12-15 minute Strip tours priced from $104 to $154, but New Year’s Eve is not advertised on the company’s website.
5 Star offers 12-minute nighttime tours starting at $134, but does not advertise New Year’s Eve tours.
Tours through GC Flight are priced from $119 for a 10-15 minute tour, but New Year’s Eve is not advertised.
Another thing to think about on New Year’s Eve: getting to the airport to make your flight on time isn’t like other nights. When the Strip closes — usually at about 5 p.m. — it snarls traffic for miles along the Strip corridor, and it can impede traffic to and from the airport.