Uber to offer helicopter rides in New York City starting in July

Passengers will be able to use the Uber app to book a flight through the service, called Uber Copter.
Passengers will be able to use the Uber app to book a flight through the service, called Uber Copter.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Uber Technologies is testing a helicopter service in New York City, according to documents outlining the programme obtained by Bloomberg.

Passengers will be able to use the Uber app to book a flight through the service, called Uber Copter, the documents show. Test flights took off from a Manhattan heliport near Wall Street to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

After Bloomberg asked Uber for comment on Wednesday, the New York Times published a story about the programme. It says customers will be able to book flights starting on July 9 in New York City and that the average ride will cost US$200 (S$273) to US$225 a person.

Mr Eric Allison, the head of Uber's flight business, told the Times that the company plans to eventually offer helicopter rides in other cities. A spokesman for Uber declined to comment.

Helicopters have been whisking travellers from Manhattan to nearby airports for decades. Now, a start-up called Blade Urban Air Mobility even lets customers book using an app. It currently offers regular flights from Manhattan to three airports six days a week for as little as US$195.

"There may be no greater validation of Blade's strategy than Uber entering the urban air mobility market in New York City," said Blade's chief executive officer Rob Wiesenthal.

As Uber geared up last month for America's largest initial public offering since 2014, the company emphasised its investment in various modes of transportation. In addition to the world's largest ride-hailing service for cars, it operates self-driving vehicles, electric bicycles, scooter rentals and now helicopters.

 
 
 
 

Next week, Uber will host a conference about flying urban transport in Washington.

When Uber Copter arrives next month, it will only be available to members of the company's loyalty programme who qualify for the top two tiers, Platinum and Diamond, said a person familiar with the plans.

The rides can be booked on demand or up to five days ahead of time, said the person, who asked not to be identified. Each helicopter can accommodate five passengers, and like Uber car rides, prices will fluctuate based on demand and other factors.

The documents on Uber's test flights show that it shuttled two groups of riders on April 11. The rides, from Manhattan to JFK and back, took five passengers each way. The documents list the names of Uber employees on the manifest. According to the documents, passengers are to be greeted with, "Hello, welcome to Uber Copter".