I've been getting a lot of questions on whether Grand Canyon helicopters are still flying despite the shutdown of the American government. You will be glad to hear the tours are still in operation.
You see, Arizona's South Rim is temporarily closed because it's part of Grand Canyon National Park. You can't even get in the main gates there because they are locked. Luckily though, the South Rim aerial tours are still in operation. See, the aircraft take off from the Grand Canyon National Park Airport, and this airfield sets outside of the National Park's boundaries. Also, the government doesn't own the airspace above the Park.
It's business as usual at the West Rim. Grand Canyon West isn't affected by the government stalemate because it's privately owned by the Hualapai Indian tribe. So the West Rim isn't part of the National Park and under government control.
South Rim Flights
You can take an air tour of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon by chopper or plane. The airplane tour is nearly an hour long and flies you over the South Rim and North Rim and includes the eastern part of the Park. It covers 75 percent of the whole Park!
There are two versions of South Rim helicopter tours: a 30-minute flight and a 50-minute version. The long chopper tour covers the same flight path as the airplane tour and lets you see more of the Park. The helicopter tours cost more but they are worth it. Try to get a tour on an EcoStar 130 if you can because they are great for sightseeing and will enhance your flight.
Flights Out of Vegas
If you will be in Vegas, you are in luck because tours that leave from there and go to the West Rim are totally unaffected by the government shutdown. All the tours to the West Rim are operating on a normal schedule including air and bus tours, and rafting trips, just keep in mind rafting trips always close for the winter in mid-November. The only hitch relates to the South Rim -- Vegas plane flights and bus tours of the South Rim are shut down until Congress agrees on a budget. As soon as the government shutdown is over, the South Rim tours will resume.
Book Your Tour With The Operator
It gives you peace of mine when the tour operator offers a cancellation policy. Anything could come up at the last minute. But it's even more important now, during the government budget crisis.
Avoid the cut-rate tour operators. They offer cancellation policies with exclusions and loopholes that make it hard to get your money back. Instead, buy from a tour operator that offers a full refund if your tour is canceled because of the government shutdown. If you're not happy about the uncertainty, there's no penalty if you cancel your tour yourself as long as you do it at least 24 hours before your flight. Tours to the Grand Canyon are very popular and you have to book your seats in advance or you will be shut out, so if you go with a company that has a good cancellation policy, you won't have cause for concern.
It is too bad the government ruined a lot of travel plans by closing the National Parks. Even so, tours to the Grand Canyon are largely unaffected. Just keep in mind, right now you cannot take any bus tours to the South Rim because the main gates are closed. and you cannot take the flight from Vegas to the South Rim that includes a bus tour once you get there. You can still see the magnificent Grand Canyon, despite the U.S. Government shutdown!