Demand-related uncertainty and challenging weather conditions were the main reasons behind Uber’s decision not to include any Middle Eastern cities on its initial list of Uber Air candidates.
Dallas-Fort Worth/Frisco and Los Angeles will offer US testbeds for the aerial ridesharing service, while Melbourne saw off competition from Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Sydney and Tokyo to become the first overseas city to welcome Uber Air.
The company describes the flying taxi service as ‘aerial ridesharing’ where up to four passengers can travel across a network of landing pads called ‘Skyports’ – all for the price of an UberX. According to Uber, the electrical vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles differ from helicopters as they are quieter, safer, more affordable and more environmentally friendly.
Although Uber considered the Gulf when compiling its list of candidates, passenger numbers and environmental factors prevented any Middle Eastern cities from making the cut.
Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, said: “In these initial stages, we want to launch in a place that we know will have the demand. We’re really bullish and excited about the potential of both the Middle East and African markets, but our ground business isn’t quite as big there as it is in some other places.
“We also considered weather, to be completely honest. We wanted to select launch cities in places where there is a good chance that the weather will be conducive to operations. In certain parts of the Middle East, the summer weather presents some pretty serious challenges.”
While Allison declined to comment on Uber’s AED 11.4 billion (USD 3.1 billion) acquisition of Careem, he conceded that a larger user base could boost the suitability of Middle Eastern cities for Uber Air implementation in the future.
“I certainly can’t comment on Careem,” he said. “I’m not involved in that, but I do think that if there is increased demand, that’s an essential component of the multimodal vision that we have for Uber Air.”
Uber plans to conduct flight demonstrations of its aircraft in 2020. The firm aims to make Uber Air commercially available to passengers in 2023.
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