PHOTO: John General/CNN
Now playing
03:01
Here's what it's like to fly in an Uber helicopter
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 22: Facebook
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 22: Facebook's Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg speaks with AEI president Arthur C. Brooks during a public conversation on Facebook's work on 'breakthrough innovations that seek to open up the world' at The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research on June 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Allison Shelley/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Now playing
01:23
Hear Sandberg downplay Facebook's role in the Capitol riots
screengrab US social media
screengrab US social media
PHOTO: Getty Images
Now playing
04:35
Tech companies ban Trump, but not other problematic leaders
PHOTO: Samsung
Now playing
01:53
See Samsung's new Galaxy S21 lineup
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:47
Extremists and conspiracy theorists search for new platforms online
This illustration picture shows the social media website from Parler displayed on a computer screen in Arlington, Virginia on July 2, 2020. - Amid rising turmoil in social media, recently formed social network Parler is gaining with prominent political conservatives who claim their voices are being silenced by Silicon Valley giants. Parler, founded in Nevada in 2018, bills itself as an alternative to "ideological suppression" at other social networks. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)
This illustration picture shows the social media website from Parler displayed on a computer screen in Arlington, Virginia on July 2, 2020. - Amid rising turmoil in social media, recently formed social network Parler is gaining with prominent political conservatives who claim their voices are being silenced by Silicon Valley giants. Parler, founded in Nevada in 2018, bills itself as an alternative to "ideological suppression" at other social networks. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
03:49
Parler sues Amazon in response to being deplatformed
PHOTO: Twitter
Now playing
02:39
Twitter permanently suspends Donald Trump from platform
Panasonic
Panasonic's Augmented Reality Heads-up Display
PHOTO: Panasonic USA
Now playing
01:06
This tech gives drivers directions on the road in front of them
PHOTO: LG Display
Now playing
01:10
See LG's transparent TV
PHOTO: Twitter/@gregdoesthings
Now playing
02:06
Internet gets creative with empty iPhone boxes
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 3: The Google logo adorns the outside of their NYC office Google Building 8510 at 85 10th Ave on June 3, 2019 in New York City. Shares of Google parent company Alphabet were down over six percent on Monday, following news reports that the U.S. Department of Justice is preparing to launch an anti-trust investigation aimed at Google. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 3: The Google logo adorns the outside of their NYC office Google Building 8510 at 85 10th Ave on June 3, 2019 in New York City. Shares of Google parent company Alphabet were down over six percent on Monday, following news reports that the U.S. Department of Justice is preparing to launch an anti-trust investigation aimed at Google. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Now playing
03:25
Google employee on unionizing: Google can't fire us all
Now playing
02:01
Watch 'deepfake' Queen deliver alternative Christmas speech
Now playing
01:42
Watch father leave daughter dozens of surprise Ring messages
PHOTO: Photo Illustration: Kena Betancur/Getty Images
Now playing
04:50
Zoom's founder says he 'let down' customers. Here's why
Now playing
00:48
See Walmart's self-driving delivery trucks in action
Now playing
01:25
This robotaxi from Amazon's Zoox has no reverse function
(CNN Business) —  

It cost me more than three times the money and an extra 15 minutes to fly to my local airport in an Uber helicopter than if I had taken the highway in an Uber X. It also required multiple cab rides, squeezing into a tight space and overcoming a mild-to-moderate fear of flying while soaring alongside the Brooklyn Bridge.

On Thursday, the ride-hail company launched a premium helicopter service in New York City with the promise of 8-minute flights to nearby John F. Kennedy airport from downtown Manhattan. Uber intends to expand the service to more US cities and eventually — implausible as it may sound — offer this option to daily commuters who travel to and from neighboring suburbs.

In some ways, this ambitious service is a throwback to the premise Uber launched with a decade ago: offer a sleek and convenient transportation option so customers with too much disposable income can feel like high rollers — or “ballers” — while traveling. This time, the question is whether Uber can convince the Wall Street crowd near the helipad to upgrade from a car to a chopper.

During a test run earlier this week, it cost $205 for a one way Uber Copter trip to the airport — an experience that, start to finish, took me 55 minutes to complete. That fee included a 19-minute Uber X car ride from the Lower East Side 2.8 miles to the heliport, as well as a 5-minute trip to my final destination, the new TWA Hotel at JFK.

Uber Copter offers an 8 minute flight from downtown Manhattan to JFK airport
Uber Copter offers an 8 minute flight from downtown Manhattan to JFK airport
PHOTO: Samantha Kelly/CNN

But for what’s supposed to be an alternative to waiting in highway traffic, it still ends up being a headache. I could have arrived at the hotel in 40 minutes for $61 if I had ordered an Uber X ride from my original location south of Houston Street. That’s saving almost $145 for a faster service. (Full disclosure: I tested the Uber Copter in the late morning; Uber typically offers it during peak afternoon commuting hours when flying over airport traffic really counts).

The launch comes at a time when the company could use some flashy product launches and positive headlines as it faces a daunting list of problems, including record losses, multiple rounds of layoffs, continued scrutiny over passenger safety, potentially existential regulatory threats and a stock price that is hovering near an all-time low.

As Uber expands its fleet of cars to scooters, bikes and now helicopters, it wants to give users more options for getting from one place to another. It envisions replacing helicopter trips with autonomous electric flying cars to make transportation faster and, in theory, safer. Under its new Uber Air division, it’s working on a class of flying electric vehicles that can take off and land vertically. The company is expected to launch its first set of electric aircraft in Dallas, Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia, in 2023.

PHOTO: John General/CNN

“You can imagine Uber Copter is [as] kind of being the first version of that future product — that is fundamentally what we think of as multimodal,” Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, said at the TWA Hotel following my Uber Copter flight. “Copter is not just about the air ride, but the overall journey. [We] can weave together our network of cars on the ground with the air vehicles; and in this case, the helicopter, so you can seamlessly transition from a car to the helicopter to a car to get you to the final destination. It’s completely sequenced and figured out by our technology behind the scenes.”

For now, Uber Copter is a narrow launch in one small slice of one big city. To get its helicopter business off the ground, it’s relying on a third-party, charter company HeliFlite.

The 8-minute flight was the easiest part of the experience; check-in at the helipad was as simple as scanning a barcode and showing a driver’s license. Ordering the Copter was easy, too. Users who have the highest status levels in Uber’s reward program will see an option pop-up in the app when planning a trip involving Lower Manhattan.

CNN tech editor Samantha Kelly boards the Uber Copter
CNN tech editor Samantha Kelly boards the Uber Copter
PHOTO: John General/CNN

But here’s where it gets complicated: Trips must start or end in this designated zone in Lower Manhattan. The company will coordinate a pick-up car service to get passengers to the helipad, adding significant minutes to a trip depending on the start location. (Uber said it plans to open up some of the geo-fencing restrictions around the pickup locations in the future.)

As it stands, nothing particularly sets the Uber Copter experience apart from any other helicopter you might take. There’s no extra leg room or free bottles of water. The service is also competing with other helicopter booking services such as Blade, which offers flights to neighboring airports, as well as routes to the Hamptons, Atlantic City and Nantucket, via an app. (Blade and Uber partnered several years ago to let users of the ride-sharing app book chartered helicopter rides to Montauk, New York, for July 4th weekend.) Blade’s flat rate to JFK is $195 one way.

The Uber Copter interior
The Uber Copter interior
PHOTO: Samantha Kelly/CNN

In line with HeliFlite’s rules, Uber Copter passengers are only allowed to bring one personal item and one piece of luggage on flights to the airport — a potential deterrent for someone who might be traveling overseas with more bags.

The real highlight of the Uber Copter trip is soaring along the stunning New York City skyline, past the Brooklyn Bridge and near the Statue of Liberty — sights alone arguably worth more than $205. After touching down at JFK just a few minutes later, I barely had time to remember my fear of flying.

The service will likely appeal to Wall Street types conveniently located near the helipad or those traveling to the airport during peak hours who can afford to pay a premium to avoid sitting in traffic. But for the rest of us, an Uber X — or heck, even a $2.75 subway ride — will do just fine.

Matt McFarland contributed to this report