New Yorkers now have an app for gridlock-dodging flights to the Hamptons

By Elizabeth Landers, CNNPublished 3rd July 2013
Fourth of July traffic will inevitably have gridlocks nationwide, and for the tony Hamptons area in Long Island, access by car and bus will be no different.
So why not take to the skies in an Uber Chopper? Uber, a service that dispatches cars for hire using mobile apps, is offering on-demand helicopters from Manhattan to East Hampton.
The San Francisco-based car service announced Tuesday via e-mail and blog that it will branch into helicopters, offering to whisk wealthy clients from the throngs of Manhattanites to the relative calm of the Hamptons. The service begins at midday Wednesday.
How does it work? Uber Chopper will be added to the Uber transportation options on the company's mobile app. A car and driver pick up the client, who is driven directly to a helipad.
Users can select from one of three helipads in Manhattan -- on the east and west sides and the Financial District. Because of the steep price tag -- $3,000 for a one-way trip -- Uber staff calls clients to verify that they intended to call the chopper. Then up to six people can pile into the helicopter for a mere 40-minute ride to the East Hampton Airport. Upon arrival, a second Uber-serviced SUV will drive clients to their final destination.
"It's a lot better than the three to four hours it can take [to drive] on a busy weekend," says Josh Mohrer, general manager of Uber New York. "This is modeled like our car service. We don't own the cars, we just partner with drivers."
For the New York City helicopters, Uber paired with Liberty Helicopters, a private company with several dozen choppers in the area. "We have a logistics fabric that we use in the cities that we operate in. This is an experiment in extending that," Mohrer added.
He says the idea began as a joke around the New York Uber offices, which are known to throw a barbecue and ice cream truck into their mix of available services. But the idea morphed into reality for the summer rush to the Hamptons.
The concept of such flights to the Hamptons is not new. In 2012, hotelier Andre Balazs introduced StndAIR, an amphibious aircraft that leaves from the East River on a 45-minute flight to the East Hampton Airport. One-way tickets cost a cool $525.
Unlike StndAIR, however, Uber is available almost instantaneously, Mohrer says. "This is similar to a charter, but the magic here is that you're pushing a button when you're ready to go."
Though the service just began Wednesday and flights are not booked far in advance, Mohrer says he expects full flights, judging by the media buzz and feedback from clients.
Since it launched in May 2010 in San Francisco, Uber has blossomed from a small technology start-up into a major private automobile presence in 33 cities with drivers around the world.
Now add pilots to that list, too.