All New York City Uber customers can now take a helicopter from downtown Manhattan to John F. Kennedy International Airport via the ride-share app.
According to Bloomberg, Uber began testing a helicopter shuttle service between downtown Manhattan and JFK Airport on July 9. The average ride will cost between $200 and $225 per person depending on demand and will take about eight minutes from lift off to touch down. This fee includes an Uber ride to the downtown helipad, the brief flight to JFK, and another Uber ride to your JFK terminal.
Originally, this service was only available to top-tier Uber users, but the Uber Copter service opened to all customers this week.
The drive from downtown Manhattan to the airport can take about an hour, sometimes closer to two, depending on traffic conditions. According to Uber, the service should cut travel time down to a half-hour, including ground transfers.
“This is a trip that so many travelers make a day, and we see an opportunity to save them a huge amount of time on it,” Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate (the company’s aerial division), told The New York Times.
Although the service is hailed by Uber as a time-saver for the busy traveler, the full trip to JFK took around 70 minutes when Reuters tested it this week.
The Reuters offices are located in Midtown Manhattan, an area not included in Uber Copter's commercial service area. An Uber spokeswoman told Reuters, "Uber Copter won’t appear as an option in the app if you are outside of the geofence because it wouldn’t provide time savings."
Uber is not the first to provide this service in NYC. Earlier this year, Blade launched helicopter rides from several Manhattan locations to all NYC area airports, including JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark.
"There is no greater validation of Blade’s strategy and No. 1 market position than Uber’s entering the Urban Air Mobility market in New York City," Rob Wiesenthal, CEO, Blade Urban Air Mobility, Inc., told Travel + Leisure.
Blade rides cost $195 per person, and come with a pre-flight lounge experience that includes express check-in, snacks, and drinking Berne rosé from a helicopter-proof sippy cup. In addition to booking by the seat, Blade also offers private charters and crowdsource services.
Uber Copter rides will leave from a heliport near Wall Street and can be booked on demand or up to five days in advance. The service is currently only available during weekday afternoons. Each helicopter will be capable of carrying five passengers and their belongings.
However, this isn’t an option for travelers with large suitcases: Each rider will be limited to one personal bag and one carry-on, weighing no more than 40 pounds.
Blade's luggage allowance is even more strict — capped at one personal bag and one small carry-on per person with a 25 lb. maximum for airport rides — though a ToteTaxi service is offered for an additional fee. The Blade ToteTaxi will deliver two oversized pieces of luggage to the airport for $85, plus $40 for each additional bag.
Allison said Uber plans to expand its Copter services to other cities following this New York City test run. Blade currently provides airport transports in Los Angeles and San Francisco as well.