BLADE’s helicopter service between Manhattan and NYC-area airports has gotten a ton of buzz recently. The startup has been around for a few years, but made some ears perk up when they launched $195 pricing between Manhattan and JFK.
It is still a pricey proposition for a one-way helicopter ride, but seemed slightly more justifiable if a taxi or Uber ride might cost half of that. (There has been a promo code floating around for $120 BLADE rides.)
Now, Uber has joined in on the (very noisy and loud) fun with Uber Copter to JFK.
Breaking It Down:
Uber Copter Details Between JFK and Manhattan
The ridesharing service started its Uber Copter service in New York City today (July 9, 2019) with service between lower Manhattan and JFK airport.
Pricing will begin around the $200 mark but unlike BLADE, prices will be dynamic based on demand similar to how Uber operates currently. Uber Copter will have more limited availability than BLADE, with service only on Mondays through Fridays during the afternoon rush hour. However, that makes sense since traffic to JFK will be the worst during those hours and days of the week.
In terms of a seamless experience, Uber has the leg up on BLADE. Transfers between the downtown Manhattan helipad and the pickup or dropoff will be included within the booking flow since, you know, Uber’s bread and butter is a car service. Here is the mockup of how the reservation will look on the Uber app.
Uber Copter Available To Select Users Only
Uber Copter in NYC seems to be soft launch from Uber as the service will only be available to users who are “Platinum” and “Diamond” members — the top tiers of the company’s loyalty program called Uber Rewards. Platinum status requires at least 2,500 points (or $1,250 in UberX spend) within a six month period. That’s quite a hefty Uber bill to accumulate.
This service is clearly targeted to Uber power users, business travelers, and executives — which is a smart move since its a subset of customers that Uber can use to gather feedback while also making these loyalists feel a little extra “special.”
Like BLADE, there are restrictions to carry-on bags only onboard the helicopter with a weight limit up to 40 pounds (slightly more generous than BLADE’s). That shouldn’t be a problem for their target demographic — frequent business travelers — who would be likely traveling light anyhow.
Critics of the Uber Copter service include New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, particularly following a fatal helicopter crash in June. New York City is experiencing a resurgence of helicopter services of sorts after it basically fizzled out in the 1970s. However, the pollution from emissions and noise along with crashworthiness are still major concerns.
There is also is the notion that there isn’t a truly easy way to get between JFK and Manhattan and Uber is just making it easier for the 1%. While I agree with that assertion, I also can see why Uber — a business looking to make money — could care less about the rest of us.
I can already imagine the quintessential use case for the Uber Copter service.
A frequent business traveler fires up the Uber app to get to JFK from their downtown office at 5:00pm during the peak of rush hour. The app prompts the traveler an alternative — Uber Copter — saving them about an hour of time spent in traffic. That user swipes over to Uber Copter, and a couple minutes later they’re being whisked away in an UberX directly to the helipad near the West Side Highway.
They board the Uber Copter and just eight minutes later, that business traveler has made it to the JFK helipad next to Terminal 8 where a waiting vehicle is set to transport them to their terminal.
For myself, perhaps I will give one of these services a try in the future. For now, I’ll stick with taking the Long Island Railroad to JFK or my trick to save about 50% on Uber rides from JFK when I’m in a pinch.
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