Uber Technologies Inc., one of the most popular ride-hailing services in the world, has announced that Uber Copter in JFK is now available for everyone. Uber Copter is a helicopter service that takes customers from the JFK airport to anywhere in New York City.
“The focus in the near term is to open this up to all riders, to demonstrate this vision of the seamless connection between cars and helicopters,” explained Eric Allison, the head of Uber Elevate.
Now customers can use this feature simply by going on to the Uber app and schedule a trip to the destination of choice. Generally, it is a three-stop trip: First, Uber picks you up from the airport with a car and takes you to the Downtown Manhattan Heliport. Then through multiple security checks, you can get on the helicopter. And after it has landed, another car picks you up and takes you to your destination. And all that for around $200 to $225. Since some taxi rides from the JFK airport can cost up to $100, then you can consider it a fair deal.
Additionally, around 8 people can get on one flight, and Uber, for now, owns two helicopters. Of course, there is an added benefit to this flight – the amazing New York City skyline.
However, the interesting part about this is that Uber says that this, basically, is a test for their higher goals of launching Uber Air. Yes, they’ve already come up with a name for that. Since flying helicopters back-and-forth can be fairly costly, Uber has plans for an electrically-powered drone-like aircraft for the future, but couldn’t specify when.
“Uber Copter is kind of the first manifestation of this future vision. […] Ultimately, we see Uber Copter transitioning into Uber Air. This is kind of the first iteration of that,” says Eric.
While for now, the service is only available in New York’s JFK airport, Uber has plans for a more significant launch in the future, possibly expanding to Dallas, Los Angeles, and Melbourne. However, that launch is planned only around 2023.
Not All Are Happy
However, there are some downsides to all this. First, some users have said that the whole service together (trip to helicopter, flight, trip to destination) can take up even more time than taxies. This is due to the fact that you have to change transports two times.
Next, currently, there are ongoing protests against helicopters in New York. Protestors say that they make a lot of noise and pollute the air.
“This will add a horrible new player into an already horrible, dangerous, unsafe, carbon-creating industry,” says John Dellaportas, the president of Stop The Chop organization.
Another thing is that customers can only take one personal item on board and one carry-on bag under 40 pounds. That quite significantly tightens the audience for this service. Anyway, the ticket for two people is $364 and the service itself can take up to 50 minutes.
Other experts point out that this kind of service can quickly get way too popular:
“I think it could get too popular too quickly. […] That will probably be dealt with by the price because as the demand grows, the price will go up,” says Michael Holtz, the founder and CEO of SmartFlyer.