Uber and United Airlines have partnered up, for a match made in traveler's heaven. You can book an Uber ride via United's mobile app, to pick you up from the airport and drive you to your destination. To sweeten the deal, United is giving an extra 1,000 MileagePlus points when Uber trips are booked through its app.
I have only one minor concern on this arrangement. It all comes down to timing. It's a different situation than when someone just needs a ride home from the bar. If the arriving flight is delayed, the Uber driver spends his or her time circling the airport and wasting gas. Or even if they wait it out in the cell phone lot, they're potentially missing opportunities for other fares. I've never used Uber, so I am viewing this as a somewhat skeptical outsider. At what point does the driver say, "Screw it, I'm out of here" and leave the customer without a ride? Smart drivers will use flight tracking apps like FlightRadar24 or FlightAware to get a more precise time for their arrival. If you are familiar with Uber or drive for them, please chime in below in the comments section.
Praveen Sharma, United's VP of loyalty said:
"Our partnership with Uber offers customers new opportunities to simplify their travel experience. Customers can use the app to ensure a more convenient journey, from checking in for an international flight from their home or office to finding instant ground transportation options at their final destination."
Bloomberg BusinessWeek had this to say about Uber's opening of their API to developers:
"This is a classic marketing opportunity: Everyone who has ever bought anything online is by now used to secondary pitches at the point of checkout. While a decidedly old-school tactic, it may add an air of legitimacy and inevitability to Uber, which is pioneering an aspect of the "sharing economy" that has generated controversy not unlike the concerns Airbnb has encountered in many cities."
It's widely known that Uber and its competitors (Lyft and Sidecar) and struggling to hire drivers, in spite of all the easy sex they're supposedly getting. Will airport fares be more or less attractive to drivers?
Uber has also opened its API to about a dozen other companies, including Starbucks, OpenTable and Hyatt hotels. Earlier this week, Uber announced its intention for their on-call car service to be "as reliable as running water," and these mainstream companies will certainly get their ambitions flowing in the right direction.