Jun 15, 2016

    Traffic jam? Take Uber helicopter


    FOR commuters who imagine soaring above Sao Paulo's notorious traffic jams, ride-hailing app Uber is offering to make that daydream a reality, starting from 66 reais (S$26).

    Brazil's biggest city on Monday became the first in the world where Uber Technologies offers on-demand chopper rides between airports, hotels and convention centres.

    With more than 400 aircraft and nearly as many helipads, Sao Paulo has a helicopter fleet that rivals those of New York and Tokyo but commuting by air remains an option mostly for millionaires.

    Uber aims to change that with a month-long pilot programme.

    Promotional prices up to tomorrow start at 66 reais per seat for a lift from Helicentro Morumbi, in one of Sao Paulo's richest neighbourhoods, to the Blue Tree hotel across the river. The distance is nearly 6km as the chopper flies.

    A ride from the Blue Tree Faria Lima onward to Guarulhos International Airport costs 271 reais during the promotion. A car can take one to three hours to make that trip, depending on traffic.

    Uber media representatives declined to say how much prices would rise after tomorrow or how many helicopters would be made available by the three companies operating the flights.

    Uber aims to get as much as five times the flight time out of each helicopter compared to standard use, according to a spokesman.

    The Sao Paulo pilot programme, connecting four airports and five other helipads, is Uber's biggest step yet in a partnership with Airbus Group, announced in January.

    Uber experimented in recent years with helicopter rides to the Coachella and Bonnaroo music festivals from nearby United States airports that cost as much as US$3,000 (S$4,100) to book a helicopter and door-to-door SUV rides.

    Spanish rival Cabify, which launched its Sao Paulo car service on Monday, also plans to offer helicopter rides in the city by the end of the year, as it already does in Mexico City.