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Uber helicopter rides to JFK were briefly cheaper than its cars

Hailey Waller and Lizette Chapman

Bloomberg

 /  Sun, November 24, 2019  /  02:07 pm
Uber helicopter rides to JFK were briefly cheaper than its cars

This June 5, 2019, image courtesy of Uber shows Uber Copter at a helipad in New York. Uber said on June 6, 2019, it is readying its first helicopter rides, which will carry passengers between New York's JFK Airport and lower Manhattan. (AFP/Becky Katz Davis/Uber)

Soaring a few hundred feet above rush-hour traffic, an Uber helicopter would usually get you from Manhattan to JFK International Airport faster than a car. Turns out, it was briefly cheaper too.

The 8-minute trip cost just $108.98 -- a third lower than the $163.11 charge for an Uber Black ride, and just a tad higher than the basic UberX at $100.35, according to prices offered by Uber Technologies Inc. earlier this month seen by Bloomberg. Like other Uber products, the pricing of helicopter rides can vary by location, time of day and other factors, but the fire sale was a standout given the ride-hailing app’s new focus on slashing rider discounts with the quest to be profitable by the end of 2021.

Helicopter rides typically cost between $200 and $225, according to the company. And the discount was a temporary offer for “a small, random set of riders,” Matt Wing, an Uber spokesman, said in response to queries.

Read also: Uber names Melbourne as first non-US city for flying car program

Wing declined to say how many helicopter rides Uber has completed since it introduced the service in July. It’s gathering data from the New York service, which currently runs Monday through Friday during afternoon rush hour, before deciding whether to expand.

Its larger aerial ridesharing initiative, Uber Elevate, remains on track to test its flights in Dallas, Los Angeles and Melbourne in 2020, before making the service available to the public in 2023.

The initiative, like Uber’s bike, scooter, grocery and food delivery programs, highlights the San Francisco-based company’s conflict between balancing growth with delivering profit. Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi promised investors during the company’s November earnings call to only focus on business lines and in markets where it could establish or defend a No. 1 or No. 2 leadership position in its quest to stop bleeding money.

Uber stock has plummeted 34 percent since its May IPO.

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