Starting this week, New Yorkers can take a chopper from downtown to JFK airport for $200 and avoid the grid locked roads on their way to the airport. If their foray in New York succeeds, Uber hopes to expand this service to other cities. Flights can be booked up to five days in advance. Uber Copter’s service is currently offered to its Platinum and Diamond members only.
Here is how it works – You book a trip from Manhattan to JFK, take a Uber car to transport yourself to the helipad in Manhattan near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and then board Uber Copter to land at a helipad near Terminal 8 at JFK 10 minutes later. This trip will bring total transport times between NYC and JFK down to as little as half an hour, maybe even less. That compares with the one hour it typically takes the drive the route, which can take up to two hours or longer in the city’s bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic. The Long Island Railroad, the alternative mode of transportation, typically takes between 50 and 75 minutes to make the journey.
Now, taking a chopper to NYC airports is nothing new. There are several companies that offer the helicopter service from NYC to JFK, LGA and EWR. But the ability to book a cab/copter online and have the whole trip work seamlessly is a first by Uber. But will consumers be willing to pay for this convenience, not just in NY but in LA or the Bay Area? In these cities, traffic is notorious and seeing customers jump off the cab and wait impatiently through security and run to catch the flight is an everyday occurrence.
Future Wealth’s View
Uber may be onto something here. Paying $200 to catch a flight that will cost a customer $150 in change fee and endless hassles, if they were to miss the flight, is pretty compelling. But, it is the convenience that has been missing from the other providers that Uber hopes to fix. To be able to go online and book a cab is no biggie anymore. Most consumers use Uber or Lyft and can get the cab they want within 10 minutes to take them where they need to go. But, to be able to cross different modes of transportation and take a cab/copter combo is pretty compelling.
For those you live in the Bay Area or LA, attempting to make a morning flight through rush hour traffic on the 101 or 405 is a hit or a miss. You may be ensconced comfortably in a stretch limo reading the Wall Street Journal with a bottle of cold water but that the harsh reality that you are stuck in traffic makes the whole trip miserable. But, many would argue that a $200 trip from a helipad near their house to SFO or LAX airports is for the ultra rich only. But, considering that people are beginning to be willing to pay for convenience like never before – Amazon Prime, Amazon Fresh, Doordash, Grubhub are but a few examples, it is not so far fetched that travelers, especially business travelers, would consider this option. And of course, there is always the prestige of taking a helicopter to the airport.
If only Uber had this service when I was working at a company in NYC, bang opposite the Staten Island ferry building and commuting biweekly from San Francisco, I would have saved myself and the company from many miserable hotel nights holed up in a roach motel in Jamaica, where I cooled my heels after missing my regular Friday evening JFK-SFO flight due to traffic gridlock on the road from Manhattan to JFK airport.