Grand Canyon Helicopters

Papillon and Maverick are two of the leading providers of helicopter tours to the Grand Canyon. They fly the same routes and offer similar trips. So why is one more expensive than the other?

Papillon & Maverick: A Comparison

Papillon and Maverick are the two air tour companies that dominate flights to the Grand Canyon. Of the nearly 1 million people who fly the canyon, the lion's share is split between these two powerhouses. Choosing one over the other, however, is a bit more challenging than flipping a coin. In fact, there are some startling differences. This post takes a closer look.

Location

I'm going to give this to Maverick. The company has flight operations on the Vegas Strip across from Mandalay Bay. Recently, they expanded their Henderson terminal, which is a 15-minute drive south of the Strip location. Strip, West Rim and South rim trips depart from either location.

Papillon has a terminal in the McCarran Airport complex, but it's primarily for Strip flights and a limited number of West Rim tours. The majority of helicopters take off from Papillon's state-of-the-art terminal in Boulder City, which is a 35-minute drive from Las Vegas. The ride isn't so bad if you like saving money.

Papillon v.s. Maverick
papillon helicopters
maverick helicopters
  • Best variety of tours
  • Most daily departures
  • Mixed fleet (AStar & EcoStar)
  • Best prices
  • Best promotions
  • Most flights from Vegas Strip
  • Best charter flights
  • Best corporate flights
  • Best for weddings
  • Flies only EcoStar 130s

Tours

Papillon has the most tours and departure times. Their West Rim landing tours are untouchable. Each year they come up with a new package. My favorite so far is the one that lands at the bottom and comes with a Colorado River boat ride and Grand Canyon Skywalk pass.

Papillon has a great airplane/helicopter package that goes from Vegas to the South Rim. It also includes a guided bus tour inside the Park. The miraculous thing is you'll be back at your hotel by sundown for a night on the town.

Maverick's selection is awesome, too. Like Papillon, they fly both rims, and then some. In particular is a tour that goes over the Valley of Fire, a particularly beautiful area just north of Vegas. They also have a spectacular West Rim package that includes an off-road 4x4 Jeep trip.

papillon helicopters

Go with Maverick for weddings and large corporate parties. This is hands down their forte. Helicopters only seat six passengers, which can throw a wrench into large-group logistics unless your flying Maverick.

Quality

Papillon is economy and Maverick is luxury. As such, Maverick takes home the gold for quality. The VIP experience starts with the limousine pick up and continues as you enter their richly appointed lobby. It's a "Donald Trump" experience draped in 5-star customer service.

This is not a knock against Papillon. The companies simply have a different clientele. That said, my Papillon experiences are so full of value that I feel guilty. The terminals are slick. The check-in people efficient. The only part I'd wish improvement on is the boarding process - you have to sit near the front in order to hear the pilot call your name.

Helicopters

Maverick has the elite fleet. It's comprised entirely of EcoStar 130s, a fantastic aircraft that boasts 25 percent more cabin room than ordinary choppers. These birds also come with theater-style seats and wrap-around windshields. It's like being in an airborne IMAX theater.

Papillon's fleet is a mix of AStar and EcoStar helicopters. AStars are used primarily for aerial tours. If you book a landing tour, chances are you'll be in an EcoStar, but there's no guarantee. Papillon recently did a fleet upgrade so I'm anticipating more EcoStars (to be updated!).

Safety

Papillon and Maverick are the safest air tour companies in Vegas. I've flown both for years without incident. I recommend both to friends and family. Pilots do their own safety checks prior to flight and stay strictly to the flight plan. I can say with confidence that you are in good hands.

maverick helicopters

Price

Papillon's got the best deals in town. This will never change. How? Volume. Papillon is the people's choice, and they've won hearts and minds by offering great tours at prices everyone can afford. With Maverick, you could wind up paying up to 35% more (but you're guaranteed and EcoStar).

Which brings me to a very salient point: Papillon and Maverick offer their best prices on the Internet. Do not book over the phone. Resist the hotel concierge. Steer clear of the ticket kiosks on the Strip. Shop the Web and you'll save a bundle (like up to 35%!). There's a catch, though: Internet offers must be booked on the Web or it's no deal.

Papillon or Maverick?

After reading this post, I hope it's clear. Go with Papillon Helicopters for economy. Do Maverick Helicopters for luxury. Then book that trip on the Net and save. To my mind, the Grand Canyon was meant to be seeing from a helicopter, and here are two air-tour companies that do the job right.

See you up there!

Travel On!