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Uber Copter is a new service that has made headlines since its mid-2019 launch in New York. It’s making helicopter rides easily accessible to any local consumer who has a smartphone and the Uber app installed. But while most users are aware of how to use Uber, you may still be wondering how the helicopter service even works, and if it’s worth it at all.
This article will guide you through everything you need to know about Uber Copter, including how to request it and how safe it is.
- What Is Uber Copter?
- Where Are Uber Helicopters Available?
- How to Request an Uber Helicopter
- How Much Does Uber Copter Cost?
- Is Uber Copter Safe?
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Uber Copter?
Uber Copter is a shared helicopter service that allows you to request a ride to the airport in just a few taps. When you choose “Copter” as your ride option, you’ll receive a standard Uber ride to your local heliport, then be flown in a branded Uber helicopter by a professional pilot for a multimodal experience.
Thanks to Uber’s advanced smartphone technology, renting an Uber helicopter is far easier than the process fliers must go through to rent a private jet.
It’s not a totally on-demand service. You won’t be able to get an immediate helicopter ride, but Uber Copter can be booked in as little as 30 minutes in advance. You can also schedule a ride up to five days ahead. However, the service only runs Monday to Friday from 2-6 p.m., during the afternoon rush hour, so there is a limited window for same-day requests.
Still, it’s perhaps the simplest way to access a helicopter in New York City — no Google searches, phone calls, or credit card swiping necessary. While it was once open to Platinum and Diamond Uber Rewards members only, it’s now available to anyone in a serviced area.
Where Are Uber Helicopters Available?
As you probably can imagine, Uber Copters can’t just land anywhere in New York. They currently operate on one eight-minute route, taking riders between the Downtown Manhattan Heliport and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in Queens. In comparison, a typical rush hour drive on this route can take nearly two hours, or at least 50 minutes.
However, riders can request to or from anywhere below 110th Street in Manhattan, as well as some areas of Brooklyn, as long as your ride starts or ends at one of the heliports. Your app will show you the pick-up and drop-off areas available in real-time. Be aware that you may only save time if you’re requesting an Uber Copter to or from lower Manhattan, since you’ll still have some on-ground travel time regardless.
Uber helicopters are currently only available on iOS, but Uber did have plans to extend the service to the Android app, too. No timeline has been announced for Android availability.
How to Request an Uber Helicopter
When you enter your pick-up and drop-off addresses (make sure to include your JFK Airport terminal number) in the Uber app homepage, you’ll immediately see “Copter” as an option for eligible rides. To request your helicopter ride, simply tap on this Uber ride option and select “Request Copter or Schedule.” Then, select the amount of seats you need and tap “Next.”
On the following screen, you can choose to leave as soon as possible (if you’re requesting during the available time frame), or schedule a ride based on preferred departure or arrival time. Once you do so, you’ll get to review your full trip itinerary before tapping “Confirm Your Route.”
You’ll then have to review some terms and conditions. These include the following:
- Only one carry-on (22″ x 14″ x 9″ and up to 40 pounds) and one personal item are allowed per rider.
- One government-issued ID is required for check-in.
- Helicopter flight delays and cancellations may occur, but you’ll be notified at least four hours ahead.
Tap “Agree and Request” to complete your booking.
When you arrive at the heliport on the day of your booking, you will be required to get your boarding passes and watch a short safety video before takeoff.
How Much Does Uber Copter Cost?
The Uber helicopter service can cost anywhere between $200 and $225 per person for a one-way trip, depending on your exact route. This pricing is pretty much on par with Uber Copter’s main competitor, Blade, which also offers shared NYC helicopter rides starting at $195.
If you break it down, this fee isn’t expensive for what you’re getting. In addition to great views of your city on a helicopter ride, you’ll also have two Uber rides included. One will be to or from the Manhattan heliport, and one will be between your terminal and the JFK International Airport helipad. If no other passengers are using the service at the same time, you may end up getting a private helicopter ride for a fraction of the average cost.
Is Uber Copter Safe?
While Uber car services may be driven by your everyday driver, Uber Copter doesn’t let just anyone navigate your helicopter. The rideshare company primarily partners with HeliFlite Shares, LLC to offer safe helicopter flights with two pilots on board. Heliflite has a Platinum rating from ARGUS International and is a Wyvern Wingman safe operator. According to Heliflite, the company has even flown 40,000 hours without any accidents in its 20 years of operation.
For the few flights that Heliflite doesn’t operate, you’ll be matched with direct air carriers that are licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation. You’ll always be guided by professionals who are vetted and experienced.
Uber does not directly provide insurance for passengers, since the rideshare company only facilitates the scheduling and transactions. However, you’ll have the protection of Heliflite’s insurance coverage in case any rare issues do occur.
Frequently Asked Questions
As Uber takes on air travel, the ridesharing industry is evolving once again. The company is bringing a convenient service straight to your smartphone. We’ve answered a few common questions below to help you learn more about Uber’s latest innovations:
1. Is there a planned expansion for the Uber helicopter service?
While there are no announced plans to expand the helicopter service, Uber is starting to develop an environmentally friendly Uber Air service as part of the greater Uber Elevate aerial ridesharing project. Uber Air will connect riders to safe, shared, and affordable flights to and from “Skyports” that can handle as much as 1,000 flights per hour. Planes will be electric vertical take-off and landing (eVOTL) aircrafts.
Demonstrations for Uber Air will begin in 2020 in Melbourne, Dallas, and Los Angeles, and requests may be available by 2023.
2. Do I need to tip my Uber Copter pilot?
Tips are not required or expected for Uber Copter pilots, since they’re not independent contractors with Uber or providing a tour of the city. However, Uber tipping — usually at least 15%, according to standard etiquette — is still expected for your two included car rides.
3. How does Uber Copter differ from Uber Chopper?
Uber Chopper was a limited-edition service that the rideshare company offered for a couple of summers by partnering with its now-competitor Blade, as well as other helicopter companies. Uber Chopper took riders on a private, five-seat helicopter between New York City and the Hamptons for a flat $2,500 fee.
Uber helicopter rides, on the other hand, make an in-air service more affordable and helpful for more riders. By allowing you to share your ride and save time on your way to the airport, the experience offers more than just a fun time and a highly luxurious ride.
Fly to Your Next Destination
Uber Copter is a unique experience for any rider in NYC who wants to escape traffic while getting a fantastic view of their city. While flying cars aren’t expected anytime soon, Uber is transforming aerial transportation by making it accessible in just a few taps. If you want to turn your Manhattan to JFK commute into an eight-minute flight, Uber Copter is your convenient opportunity to do so.
If you just want to find a luxury car ride to or from the airport — no air travel needed — you can definitely find alternatives to Uber helicopters. Read our guides to luxury ground transportation, which include high-class ground transportation services with black cars, limos, and buses that’s available in hundreds of cities around the world.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.