Open-Door Helicopter Flights in the Alps

Wait a minute. Where is the side of the helicopter?!

I was remembering travel blogger, Abigail King’s description of a tandem parachute jump, and the mental jump that goes with it:

“It’s here, right now, that the absurdity of the situation takes hold. There’s a gaping hole where the side of the plane should be and not only do we not have our seatbelts on, but we’re walking right past it. Are they c-r-a-zy?! Don’t they know how dangerous this is? That we could fall out at any moment?”

That was six years ago. I don’t know how it came back to me, but it did… because that was exactly how I felt as our helicopter with five of us in it (plus pilot), began to climb out of the Innsbruck valley.

MySnapAir is a helicopter flight experience… with a difference, because they were the first in Europe to have a license enabling them to take passengers on doorless flights.

To comply, passengers are fitted with a full body harness that is tethered at the back. There is enough freedom of movement that those seated in the middle can climb out and sit on the door sill. Those on the outside – like me – have enough movement to swivel around and un-nervingly feel as if they can fall out when the helicopter tilts! I spent a lot of time with one hand gripped tightly on the top of the door frame!

In the other hand, your camera.

You can only take one device and it must have its own strap, which is clipped onto a coiled tether on your harness, allowing plenty of freedom of movement with no danger of dropping it. My guess is, they are not so bothered about you losing it, as they are about people being killed on the ground by falling photographic equipment!

Everything else that you have in your pockets, that could fall out, has to be left on the ground.

So, what’s it like?

Not as noisy as I expected, but definitely exciting. It’s an odd perspective, leaving the airport (and returning) on a different route; not in a straight line from the runway but over the airport buildings and then climbing up into the Stubaital Valley to the southwest of Innsbruck. The mountain peaks are spectacular close up, and the villages, like Fulpmes & Mieders, look like toy towns.

Once in the valley, the pilot will tell you when you can move into position to stick your feet out and take that #shoeselfie and then, all too quickly – we took the 20-minute flight, there is a 40-minute option – you are beginning a slow turn around the valley and heading back to the airport.

My Top Tips

  • If you have long hair, tie it back. One of our girls on the flight was plagued by hair flapping around her face and camera, complimented by a loose strap end on her harness.
  • Make sure your camera battery is fully charged. One passenger said his battery was draining quickly in the cold air.
  • Make sure your camera is set up as you want it before taking off. Mine had somehow set itself to 4:3 ratio instead of 16:9, and I didn’t have time to try and navigate through the menu to set it back.
  • Make sure you know how to switch modes on your camera – again you don’t have time to waste messing about with it. I was continuously switching between standard still photos and tilt-shift photos, and into video.
  • Make sure your shoelaces are done up tightly! It worried me that mine could have been tighter!

DECLARATION: I was being hosted by Innsbruck Tourism so I had this amazing experience for free. As usual though I say what I think and I wouldn’t bother to write about it if I thought it was bad.


UPDATE (Jul 2019): The MySnapAir website has disappeared, implying the business has ceased trading. I am seeking confirmation

MySnapAir operates #shoeselfie flights from both Innsbruck and Zell am See.

20 min flight….. €239 per person
40 min flight….. €349 per person
(Min 4 people required)

20 min flight private package for up to 5 people ….. €899
40 min flight private package for up to 5 people ….. €1,399


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