While hordes of F1 fans were flocking to Yas Island for the recent Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, some savvy attendees were travelling a little smarter. Anyone who opened their Uber smartphone app last week may have noticed an added option; UberChopper.
Cue the epic Wagner score, Flight of the Valkyries: the six-passenger choppers began ferrying high-rolling ticketholders from Dubai’s Atlantis resort, via a chauffer-driven limo, to the Yas Island track, not only beating traffic but rapidly covering the distance in around 15 minutes – a journey that usually takes over an hour.
The fun, stylish and rapid service has now been extended for those who just want to get a different perspective of the stunning city – and take some epic photos for Instagram.
The ride to the Nasimi Beach helipad is a typical Uber Black experience, the company’s premium “limo” service in the Emirates. But given you have a safety briefing, have to done a safety harness and are weighed like a prize-winning thoroughbred, the experience quickly loses all semblance of a traditional taxi ride.
Now that F1 fever has subsided Uber is partnering with the friendly crew at Alpha Tours to offer the on-demand chopper flights as a tour of Dubai. That ride begins with a optional jolt of coffee and swift metal detector sweep before the real fun begins. For those who’ve never taken a chopper ride, the lift off is smooth and the blue hues of the Arabian Gulf suddenly expand around the Palm Jumeirah and it’s five-star family of hotels.
Snugly strapped in, with your headset neatly on, the roar of the rotors is tamed to a pur, with tour guide-esque instructions clearly audible from the pilot. The service quickly becomes a gawking spectacle as well as a calm, amiable guide to the city's vastly contrasting neighbourhoods, with none other than the Burj Khalifa standing proud above everything else in sight.
The relatively low-profile midsection of Dubai is flanked by two severe clusters of skyscrapers; Dubai Marina and Downtown Dubai. The ride swoops over the partially-developed World Islands before tracking Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road superhighway to the historic Creek area and returning via a shot of greenery, with Emirates Golf Course in full view, behind the illustrious Marina area.
All the while, your pilot will educate and inform you of the city’s architecture and story, with all the Guinness World Records and mind-boggling stats that you could shake a helicopter at. The 25 minutes will fly by, but the experience is definitely one to remember.
The promotion has been a huge success and also doubled as a viral marketing score for Uber, with people posting screenshots of the chopper option on their social media channels, along with the appropriate crying-laughing-face emojis and #OnlyInDubai hashtags.
The latter response is, however, a little inaccurate considering the UberChopper has already lifted off in New York City, Cannes, Manila and there was even a one-day pilot program in Shanghai to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the app in China.
The Silicon Valley company has expanded its on-demand transportation service around the world, with numerous alternatives springing up in various markets, such as Careem, here in the UAE. Uber now has services in around 60 countries and more than 300 cities around the globe.
What you need to know
The Dubai UberChopper experience will last around 15 minutes and will cost around AED 650 per person or AED 550 per person for six seats. That's a total of 3,300 (US $900) for six passengers, including the door-to-door Uber ride. Bespoke rides are also available.