While Uber continues positioning for a future filled with air taxis, the ride-share giant's Elevate arm is launching something more tailored to the present: Uber Copter.
Booked through the Uber app, Uber Copter will provide short-distance transit via helicopter between John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Lower Manhattan, with plans to expand the service to more customers in more cities. Initially, only platinum and diamond members of Uber Rewards — the top two tiers — will be able to use Uber Copter.
For a price of roughly $200 - $225, subject to surge pricing, Uber Copter customers will be able to reserve seats on twin-engine helicopters with two pilots on board operated by Heliflite. Ground transportation will be provided on both ends of the flight, included in the ticket price, according to Uber.
Uber believes it can cut the travel time between Manhattan and JFK — typically between one and two hours, depending on mode of transit — to 30 minutes. It’s a business model already established by Blade Urban Air Mobility, a company that offers short-distance flights via helicopter, jet or seaplane at comparable prices. Blade CEO Rob Weisenthal revealed to Sean Captain of Fast Company that his company is profitable in its “core market” of the New York City area.
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But, Uber’s moves with Copter may have more to do with preparation for future Elevate plans.
“The main goal of this initial venture is to understand the operations behind aerial vehicles,” Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, told The New York Times.
Uber Copter won’t be the company’s first foray into commercial aerial operations. It has experimented with a service called UberChopper in the past, using local helicopter operators to offer temporary service around events such as WrestleMania 32 in Dallas, and the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Unlike Uber Chopper, however, Uber Copter may be a more permanent fixture in the ride-sharing giant’s repertoire. What hasn’t changed is that Uber won’t be operating or maintaining any of the aircraft.
The third annual Uber Elevate Summit in Washington, D.C. may reveal additional details about Uber Copter alongside the company’s grander ambitions for more affordable urban air mobility through electric air taxis, which it plans to launch by 2023.