Whether you’re punctual, always late or leave your timing up to the whatever you have going on that day, there’s one destination that no amount of planning or luck can prepare us for when it comes to arriving on time -- the airport.
Most New Yorkers have dealt with the all-too-familiar dread and anxiety that comes with getting to any major airport in the area on time, often times racking up cab or ride-share fees that would’ve been better spent on a flight upgrade.
What New Yorkers (and travelers in general) really want when they’re headed to the airport is a sense of efficiency, whether that be in terms of timesaving, cost efficiency or just seamlessness throughout the experience as a whole.
Leave it to Uber to find the perfect solution with Uber Copter that just rolled out to all New Yorkers on October 3.
The multimodal feature was previously only available to Diamond and Platinum Uber members based in New York, which offers users a ride to a helipad in Downtown Manhattan, a ride on the Uber Copter to JFK airport and a ride from the Sheltair Aviation terminal at JFK to their departing terminal.
General Manager of Aviation at Uber, Anil Nathan, elaborated on the full rollout and what Uber hopes is to come as a result:
“We place a lot of value in our most loyal customers and wanted to open it up initially as an exclusive perk for the top rewards members but ultimately … the goal with this is to make it available and accessible to everybody. By rolling this out to all Uber members, we’re taking that next step in that evolution.
What we are solving for in a lot of ways in our value proposition is timesaving. We want people to take the service ... because it has a meaningful value to them in terms of getting them from where they are to where they’re going as soon as possible. With that, we have a geofence in Manhattan which guarantees in some ways that you will have a time savings compared to your ground options. So that’s what we’re going to learn a ton about over the next few months and years — how people use it, what people are excited about and when they like to use it, which will play into how we think about [Uber Air] as a whole.”
Riders can pre-schedule their copter up to five days in advance to eliminate day-of travel anxiety or call the copter on-demand — whichever planning method the rider prefers.
Upon requesting the copter option, riders will be given a comprehensive itinerary that will instruct them when to arrive at their first pickup location for the car to the heliport and notify them when the car is on the way and how far away the driver is (just like a standard Uber ride.)
Once at the heliport, riders will check in at the Uber Copter lounge with the other riders who will be riding on the copter (there are six seats total per copter that are filled using the standard Uber Pool algorithm — except this time, in the air) and be sent a boarding pass with their seat assignment before boarding the aircraft.
In eight minutes or less, riders will arrive at the Sheltair Terminal at JFK where their second Uber driver will either already be waiting or will arrive from minutes away to take them straight to their final terminal or destination.
If this sounds like a pricey endeavor, it would depend on what your budget is.
But as Nathan explained, Uber is working to offer Uber Copter at the most competitively affordable price that it can while still insuring maximum safety precautions:
“We’re focused on building this multi-modal aerial ride-sharing end-to-end journey model and pricing will by dynamic to what you would expect with other Uber products. But generally speaking, it will be in the $200 to $225 range which includes the first mile (the car that gets you to the heliport), the flight and then the car that takes you to your last mile, essentially.
Safety is our top priority and that’s a lot of the reason why we’ve partnered with HeliFlite who’s our partner that provides the helicopters and the pilots and all of the aviation part of the service. They’re one of the most reputable companies in the world in terms of helicopter charter operations. They have a lot industry standard ratings and exceeding a lot of minimums and that was a major reason why we chose them as our partner is because of their safety record.”
Uber Copter all be available on weekdays during rush hours in lower Manhattan, but plans to expand are already in the works per Nathan:
“People are familiar with traffic in New York and people are familiar with using Uber so it was a great initial option to integrate into existing helicopter traffic that [New York] City is already used to. It was a good place to have a starting point but ultimately as we think about Uber Air initial launch markets — Dallas, LA, Melbourne 2023 and beyond, we see this as the stepping stone that transitions into that eventually.”
These plans for expansion by 2023 include a shared urban air transportation by Uber Elevate that will begin testing next year, with hopes of rolling out eVTOL aircraft fleets in the above cities.
The future may quite literally be up in the air, but it's safe to say the future is here -- and you probably already have it downloaded on your phone.