Uber Takes to the Skies in New Airbus Partnership
Having already staked a claim on major cities in 68 countries around the world, Uber plans to take things up a notch — literally — through a just-announced partnership with Airbus: Uber customers will soon be able to hail an Airbus H125 or H130 helicopter. Airbus CEO announced the program at a Munich technology conference on Sunday, January 17. “It’s a pilot project, we’ll see where it goes — but it’s pretty exciting,” Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders told The Wall Street Journal.
The partnership is the product of an Airbus experiment called Airbus Ventures in which the aircraft manufacturer seeks to develop closer ties with leading-edge Silicon Valley companies. The company has made a $150 million commitment to this attempt to “identify and invest in the most visionary entrepreneurs in the global aerospace ecosystem,” Airbus said in a release. Airbus says they hope the Uber connection will help them establish “a new business model for helicopter operators to access a broader customer base.”
There’s no word yet on what a ride may cost, but it’s not likely to be cheap. The companies tested their arrangement in 2013 with “UberChoppers” that flew between Manhattan and the Hamptons. Airbus also offered helicopter rides in May at the Cannes Film Festival and in June at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. In those cases, the price ranged from several hundred to several thousand dollars for a ride. The partnership’s official maiden voyage will be at the upcoming Sundance Festival, where the option of going by helicopter will be available to attendees seeking to navigate festival events.
Airbus is hoping to strengthen its helicopter business, which has been weakened by the falling price of oil — the customers for Airbus’s most expensive helicopters have historically been oil and gas companies now looking to economize.
Update, January 25, 2016: Uber chopper rides at Sundance have been canceled as the result of an agreement with Summit country officials, who were responding to hundreds of complaints about helicopters landing in a rural field enjoyed by sandhill cranes, in an area near homes. While Uber feels that air travel isn’t affect by local zoning ordinances, county official disagreed and say that the company failed to obtain the required permits for operating at the festival.