Romantic flights help customers join Mile High Club
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Love is in the air. Several thousand feet in the air.
A regional airline is encouraging its passengers to join the "Mile High Club." WDRB's Bennett Haeberle highlighted the allure behind these "Flights of Fancy" in a special assignment report Monday night.
When fuel costs $7 a gallon, maintaining an airline can be a costly venture.
Dave MacDonald owns and runs the business.
"I'm the owner, chief operator and bottle washer -- the whole works," MacDonald said.
MacDonald runs Flamingo Air, which has managed to stay off the ground for 22 years by offering something most airlines forbid.
"You're not in the aviation business long before that topic comes up," he said.
By "that topic" MacDonald is referring to what many people know as becoming a member of the "Mile High Club."
Born two years after the Summer of Love, the 1969 Cherokee Piper pipes out something hotter than the coffee at Cincinnati's Lunken Airport: romantic flights with a chance for couples to -- you know -- in the air.
MacDonald says the special flights of fancy usually complete with "a box of chocolates and some souvenirs."
MacDonald was told his business would never fly in conservative Cincinnati. Two decades later, he says business is good. Really good.
One of his busiest days is Valentine's Day, when MacDonald says "we might be doing 8-10 (flights) a day."
At $425 a flight, Flamingo averages about 2-3 per week. All are daytime flights, that result in countless stories.
"I've been shot in the back of the head with a champagne cork," MacDonald recalls. "I've had a high heel in my ear. It can be distracting. But the pilot is focused on flying the aircraft."
Pilot Kent Dobbins agreed to take us up for a quick spin around the Queen City.
Complete with heart-shaped pillows, the back of the plane has been home to two weddings, countless proposals and thousands of couples ... doing the deed.
"Our passengers never land in a fully upright position," MacDonald jokes.
MacDonald says he's turned down requests for groups.
It's often women who book the flights.
"The ladies take it very, very seriously," MacDonald said. "And it's all about romance. "
He would not provide us with a list of clientele, but says most couples drive up leaving their inhibitions in the car.
That's why MacDonald considers himself more than a pilot and owner. He wears many hats, and considers himself a psychologist, priest, and hairdresser all rolled into one.
"They tell me everything," MacDonald said with a laugh.
And in case you were wondering, the flights last an hour. The romance is up to you.
"There's been cases where they haven't made it to the end of the runway," MacDonald said.
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