Uber Copter Will Now Fly You From NYC To JFK For Only $200
Uber has started offering its “Uber Copter” service in New York City to all Uber riders. The service will get people out of the city gridlock and to JFK airport without having to deal with traffic, according to Bloomberg. Previously, only members of Uber’s top two tiers, platinum and diamond, had access to the service which started on July 9.
Normal Uber users now have a four hour window, from 2 PM to 6 PM, where they can book a copter during weekday rush hours. A one-way ride on the copter costs a rather bargain $200 and $225 per person.
Eric Allison, head of Uber’s flight division, said: “The focus in the near term is to open this up to all riders, to demonstrate this vision of seamless connection between cars and helicopters.”
Using the Uber app, customers are able to schedule a ride as far as five days in advance and, just like with car rides, prices fluctuate based on demand. Uber is currently using two helicopters to make the trips. The ride starts when an Uber car picks up riders and takes them to the downtown Manhattan heliport. For trips to JFK airport, Uber has limited pick ups to locations below Houston Street which is designed to “maximize customers’ time”.
Anil Nathan, Uber’s general manager of aviation, said: “If you live on the Upper West Side, taking a trip to lower Manhattan and then a [helicopter] flight to JFK might not make much sense.”
The flight takes about eight minutes and is followed by another Uber car ride from the helipad at JFK to the passenger’s terminal. The entire trip can be booked by one request using the Uber app instead of three separate ones.
Uber is using Bell twin engine helicopters that are operated by in Newark-based company HeliFlite and the company has two pilots on every flight. Each helicopter has six leather passenger seats for a maximum of eight people on board and they are capable of speeds up to 161 miles an hour. Each copter costs about $6.2 million.
The experience is similar to that of flying on a traditional plane, except it’s much closer to the ground and more scenic with the New York skyline in the background. The entire journey can, from start to finish, take as little as 30 minutes. It shaves off about 20 minutes to an hour from doing the trip in traditional fashion.
With Uber hoping to become the future of air travel, it is using Uber Copters as test runs for its goal of creating an airborne ridesharing network. Allison continued: “Uber Copter is kind of the first manifestation of this future vision. Ultimately, we see Uber Copter transitioning into Uber Air. This is kind of the first iteration of that.”
Uber is looking at Dallas, Los Angeles and Melbourne for its initial launch of a shared air transportation service, which is scheduled to debut in 2023. Testing will begin next year.
The company is also developing skyports for its operations in these cities. The company chose these cities because of traffic congestion data and because it is trying to establish geographical diversity. Operations in Melbourne, Australia will allow the company to work internationally and gain experience with regulatory agencies in other countries.
Allison also says that these locations have a more favorable regulatory environment to New York: “We think it’s inevitable that we will bring Uber Air to New York. We just don’t know exactly when.”
But there are also ongoing active protests against helicopters in New York due to their noise and air pollution. A grassroots organization called “Stop the Chop” advocates against helicopters, especially ones used for tourism.
Meanwhile, companies like Blade Urban Air Mobility have allowed customers to book flights that cost as little as $195 for years. They have more offerings than Uber Copter and offer continuous service between LaGuardia and Manhattan’s Wall Street heliport. They also have a wider range of times available. Uber is still just using its service as more of a testing ground for future air travel innovations.
Is the trip sufficiently convenient to disrupt traditional airport traffic? Well, passengers can only take one personal item and one carry-on bag under 40 pounds on the chopper. The ride also doesn’t save a significant amount of time: one trip from Houston Street to JFK on Wednesday morning took 43 minutes and the flight cost $364 for two people. On top of that, a three-step journey feels a bit complex, even with Uber employees helping with bags and instructions.
But still, Uber believes that the service could soar in popularity. Or, at least, that’s what the money losing company has no choice but to believe.
Michael Holtz, founder and chief executive officer of travel company SmartFlyer said: “I think it could get too popular too quickly. That will probably be dealt with by the price, because as the demand grows, the price will go up.”
Sat, 10/05/2019 – 19:30