Uber to Offer Helicopter Rides Between New York City & JFK Airport
Three years ago, Uber announced Uber Elevate, a future plan to develop ariel ride-sharing using battery-powered vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft to wisk passengers over urban traffic. Now the ride-hailing company announced it will offer helicopter rides from Manhattan to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) beginning this summer.
The service is called "Uber Copter" and it begins on July 9 in New York City. JFK Airport is about 15 miles from midtown Manhattan and one of the busiest airports in the U.S.
The helicopter service can be booked through Uber's app just like with ground transportation and will fly passengers between lower Manhattan and JFK Airport in about eight-minutes.
For those who have ever driven in New York City traffic, the 15 mile trip to the airport from Manhattan could take between 1 to 2 hours by car on a weekday afternoon. Uber Copter promises to cut the total point A to point B travel time, including ground transportation to a pickup location, in as little as 30 minutes.
"This is a trip that so many travelers make a day, and we see an opportunity to save them a huge amount of time on it," said Eric Allison, the head of Uber Elevate.
"Our plan is to eventually roll out Uber Copter to more Uber customers and to other cities, but we want to do it right," Mr. Allison added. "The main goal of this initial venture is to understand the operations behind aerial vehicles."
Similar to ground-based Uber rides, Uber Copter will have surge pricing based on demand. Uber Elevate's head of product Nikhil Goel said to the New York Times. Goel said that the average ride will cost between $200 and $225 a person.
Customers can book Uber Copter on demand or up to five days ahead of time. The helicopters accommodate up to five passengers and will run Monday through Friday during the afternoon rush hour when traffic is at its peak. Once seats are reserved, passengers will receive an email from Uber with a mobile boarding pass.
A Uber Copter can be booked through the Uber app (Photo: Uber)
In the city, the helicopters depart and land from a heliport near the southern tip of Manhattan near Wall Street and pickup and land at a JFK Airport helipad at Terminal 8, the largest passenger terminal at the airport.
Once they arrive at the airport, they'll be met at the helicopter tarmac by a car and driven directly to their departing terminal. For passengers arriving at JFK, a car will or pick them up at the terminal and taken to the helicopter tarmac for the 15 mile trip to Manhattan, Mr. Goel said.
Just like on the ground where Uber driver partners use their personal vehicles, Uber will not own the helicopters.
The helicopters will be operated by HeliFlite, a Newark, NJ-based company operating out of nearby Newark Airport with a fleet of twin-engine helicopters. For safety, two pilots will be on each flight and passengers will be shown a 90-second safety video before taking off.
Due to weight limitations of the helicopters, passengers are limited to bring aboard one personal bag and one larger carry-on weighing no more than 40 pounds.
While the option to book a helicopter through Uber is a great way to save time, booking a ride to the airport in a Uber helicopter is an expensive option for a choice few, not the many.
The Uber Copter service will only be available to riders who are Platinum or Diamond members, which are the top two tiers of the company's loyalty program Uber Rewards, which is similar to an airline rewards program. To achieve platinum or diamond status, riders need to spend a minimum of $1,250 and up to $3,750 within a six-month period on Uber rides.
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