c.2019 New York Times News Service
NEW YORK — When Uber announced an aerial ride-hailing division, Uber Elevate, three years ago, the internet and news media buzzed with chatter of flying cars becoming a reality in the not-so-distant future.
While these aerial vehicles have yet to debut, the ride-hailing service is expanding into helicopter service, called Uber Copter, starting July 9 in New York City.
The new service, booked through Uber’s app, will take passengers between Lower Manhattan and Kennedy International Airport, an eight-minute flight.
“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.
That trip by car can take at least an hour, and in rush hour traffic, more than two hours. The subway and the Long Island Railroad take between 50 and 75 minutes. Uber Copter promises to cut the total travel experience — including ground transportation — to as little as 30 minutes.
“Our plan is to eventually roll out Uber Copter to more Uber customers and to other cities, but we want to do it right,” Allison said. “The main goal of this initial venture is to understand the operations behind aerial vehicles.”
Uber Copter will be available only to users who are Platinum and Diamond members — the top two tiers of the company’s loyalty program, Uber Rewards.
These customers can book Uber Copter on demand or up to five days in advance. The helicopters accommodate up to five people and will run Monday through Friday during the afternoon rush hour.
Similar to Uber rides, Uber Copter will have dynamic pricing determined largely by demand. Nikhil Goel, Uber Elevate’s head of product, said that the average ride will cost between $200 and $225 a person.
The helicopters will be operated by HeliFlite, a Newark, New Jersey-based company.
Uber isn’t the only company offering shared helicopter rides to airports. In March, Blade Urban Air Mobility debuted Blade Airport, a helicopter service that flies between three private Blade terminals in Manhattan and JFK, LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport.