Uber Copter will now fly you over N.Y. grid­lock

The Peterborough Examiner - - BUSINESS - CLAIRE BALLENTINE

NEW YORK — The next time you’re stuck in traf­fic on the way to John F. Kennedy In­ter­na­tional Air­port, you can hon­estly say, “Maybe we should’ve taken the chop­per.” Uber Tech­nolo­gies Inc. is now of­fer­ing its Uber Copter ser­vice in New York to all Uber rid­ers, the com­pany an­nounced on Thurs­day. Pre­vi­ously, only mem­bers of Uber’s top two tiers, Plat­inum and Di­a­mond, could use the ser­vice, which be­gan on July 9. Reg­u­lar Uber users have a fourhour win­dow, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., in which to book an Uber Copter dur­ing week­day rush hours. A one-way ride costs from $200 to $225 (U.S.) per per­son.

“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,” says Eric Al­li­son, head of Uber El­e­vate, the com­pany’s flight busi­ness.

Through the app, cus­tomers are able to sched­ule a jour­ney as far as five days in ad­vance, un­til space is full. As with Uber car rides, prices will fluc­tu­ate, based on de­mand. Two he­li­copters will be used, for now, to make the trips. The jour­ney has three legs. First, an Uber car picks up rid­ers and takes them to the Down­town Man­hat­tan Heli­port. For trips to JFK, Uber has lim­ited pick­ups to lo­ca­tions be­low Hous­ton Street, which the com­pany says is de­signed to max­i­mize cus­tomers’ time. “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,” says Anil Nathan, Uber’s gen­eral man­ager of avi­a­tion. (The “only-be­low-Hous­ton” rule does not ap­ply if you’re fly­ing from JFK to the heli­port. Af­ter land­ing there, an Uber driver can take you to any des­ti­na­tion.)

The flight it­self takes about eight min­utes, fol­lowed by an Uber car ride from the he­li­pad near Ter­mi­nal 8 at JFK to a pas­sen­ger’s des­ig­nated ter­mi­nal. Trips can be booked via one re­quest in the Uber app, in­stead of three sep­a­rate ones, though cus­tomers will re­ceive an emailed bill re­ceipt for each leg. Uber is us­ing he­li­copters op­er­ated by Ne­wark-based com­pany HeliFlite and has two pi­lots on ev­ery flight. A max­i­mum of eight peo­ple will be on board.

The three-step jour­ney can take as lit­tle as 30 min­utes, while the same trek by car from Man­hat­tan can take an hour or more, de­pend­ing on traf­fic. Pub­lic trans­porta­tion gen­er­ally takes from 50 to 75 min­utes.

The com­pany is us­ing Uber Copter as a test run for its goal of cre­at­ing an ae­rial ride-shar­ing net­work of eVTOL air­craft, elec­tric ve­hi­cles that of­fer ver­ti­cal take­off and land­ing.“Uber Copter is kind of the first man­i­fes­ta­tion of this fu­ture vi­sion,” Al­li­son says. “Ul­ti­mately, we see Uber Copter tran­si­tion­ing into Uber Air. This is kind of the first it­er­a­tion of that.”

Uber has set its sights on Dal­las, Los An­ge­les, and Mel­bourne for its ini­tial launch of a shared air trans­porta­tion sched­uled to de­but in 2023, with test­ing be­gin­ning next year. It’s also de­vel­op­ing Sky­ports for its air op­er­a­tions in these cities. The struc­tures will have footprints as dense as an acre or two and will be able to han­dle up to 1,000 land­ings per hour.

Uber chose those cities, based on traf­fic con­ges­tion data, while also look­ing to es­tab­lish geo­graphic di­ver­sity in its test­ing, Al­li­son says. The op­er­a­tions in Mel­bourne will al­low it to work in­ter­na­tion­ally and gain ex­pe­ri­ence with an ad­di­tional coun­try’s reg­u­la­tory agen­cies. Al­li­son also notes that those lo­ca­tions of­fer a more favourable reg­u­la­tory en­vi­ron­ment than New York does. “We think it’s in­evitable that we will bring Uber Air to New York,” he says. “We just don’t know ex­actly when.”

There’s cur­rently an ac­tive protest move­ment against he­li­copters in New York, due to the noise and air pol­lu­tion they gen­er­ate. The grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tion Stop the Chop ad­vo­cates against all non-es­sen­tial flights, es­pe­cially those used for tourism.

“This will add a hor­ri­ble new player into an al­ready hor­ri­ble, danger­ous, un­safe, car­bon-cre­at­ing in­dus­try,” says the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pres­i­dent, John Del­la­por­tas, about Uber Copter.

He­li­copters have trans­ported trav­ellers from Man­hat­tan to re­gional air­ports for decades, but ride-shar­ing he­li­copter ser­vices such as Blade Ur­ban Air Mo­bil­ity al­low cus­tomers to book flights that cost as lit­tle as $195 through an app.

Blade has more of­fer­ings than Uber Copter, with con­tin­u­ous ser­vice be­tween La­Guardia and Man­hat­tan’s Wall Street Heli­port, as well as Ne­wark and the East 34th Street Heli­port. There are also a wider range of times avail­able. Flights are ev­ery 20 min­utes or so, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mon­day through Fri­day, and on Sun­day af­ter­noons and evenings.

Uber is us­ing its Uber Copter ser­vice as more of a test­ing ground for fu­ture air travel in­no­va­tions. The com­pany has pre­vi­ously launched mar­ket­ing stunts such as the UberChop­per in 2016. Ex­ec­u­tives de­cline to say when Uber Copter ser­vices might end in New York.

Fur­ther draw­backs to the Uber Copter ser­vice in­clude that pas­sen­gers can take only one per­sonal item and one carry-on bag un­der 20 kg on the chop­per, so they can’t bring big suit­cases they might need when trav­el­ling in­ter­na­tion­ally out of JFK.

MICHAEL NO­BLE JR. BLOOMBERG

Uber Copter rides costs from $200 to $225 per per­son for a one-way ride.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.