- Uber intends to expand its mobility offerings by launching a helicopter service, Uber Copter, in New York City, reports The New York Times and others. Service will begin on July 9.
- Trips will run during the weekday afternoon rush hour from Lower Manhattan to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). A one-way trip will take eight minutes; that same trip by car would be about an hour without rush-hour traffic.
- Uber Copter will use dynamic pricing like Uber's vehicle service and is expected to average $200-$225 per person, per ride. Service will only will be available to platinum and diamond members of Uber Rewards, a customer loyalty program.
Customers will be able to book a ride on Uber Copter on-demand or up to five days in advance. Uber Elevate head Eric Allison said in an emailed statement this is the "first real demonstration of the Elevate experience," as the company continues to develop its aerial transportation offerings.
Uber Elevate launched a few years ago and was believed to be the industry frontrunner in developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVOTL) vehicles, or "flying taxis." The company announced in 2017 that it partnered with NASA to bring its flying taxi service to cities; testing is expected to being next year in Dallas and Los Angeles. And last month, Uber Elevate filed an application with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin food deliveries via drone in San Diego.
Allison says Uber Copter will help "lay the foundation" for other Uber Air vehicles, like the eVOTLs.
However, as ride-hailing services and other mobility operators put in place programs catered to low-income riders or those with special needs to boost transportation equity, Uber Copter goes in the opposite direction. Even customers who can afford paying about $200 for an eight-minute trip can't use the exclusive helicopter service unless they're elite members of Uber's customer rewards program.
At least initially, Uber Copter will only have a small client base. The constraints mean Uber Copter would increase convenience for a small group of customers but it likely won't gain traction as a viable traffic congestion reduction mode, especially considering each Uber Copter only seats up to five people.
While the price for a trip is high, it's in line with what the other airport commuter helicopter service and Manhattan helicopter tour operators charge.
Because Uber is just entering the testing phase for its various aerial services, much will probably change in the coming months and years just as it has with Uber vehicle service over time. But for the time being, Uber's air transportation carries the image of being a novelty aimed at the elite — not a congestion-cutting option for the average citizen.