Uber Launches Flight-Booking Product in the UK

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Uber users opening the app for a quick ride home after a late night out partying better start paying attention to what button they press.

On Wednesday, Uber announced its UK users will be able to book both domestic and international flights in its app by this summer as part of its ambition to create a “super app,” per the Financial Times. Uber’s UK general manager Andrew Brem said in a statement the booking process will take “as little as one minute.”

Uber Everything

Even before it got into the airline business, Uber was flying high. It reported its first-ever positive cash flow in August 2022, and since then it has managed to skirt the enormous job cuts which have afflicted other tech companies — although it did announce in February that it would shed some employees via “even more rigorous” performance reviews. So rest assured that Uber employees have really been gunning for 5 stars lately.

In a surprisingly comfortable position, and having added a hefty string to its bow with food-delivery product UberEats, Uber is now using the UK as a testing ground for integrating itself into a wider transport infrastructure:

  • Uber has already added features to its UK app to let users book train and bus tickets, and Brem told the FT that train reservations have gone up 40% month-on-month since they launched in August last year. He didn’t, however, provide any hard figures and given the UK has been ravaged by train strikes since June last year, maybe he’d rather not say.
  • To sell plane tickets, Uber is co-piloting with travel booking site Hopper. Uber will take a commission on each sale, and has the option to add booking fees in the future if the feature really takes off.

Many Silicon Valley firms want to enmesh themselves into critical infrastructures like payment, transport, and communication. Elon Musk announced upon buying Twitter that he wanted to make the social app into an “everything app,” and Meta has integrated its payment system “Meta Pay” (formerly Facebook Pay) into its roster of apps.

Bye Bye Birdie: While Twitter pursues “everything app” status, it may be losing its title as Corporate America’s unofficial customer service desk. Airlines including Ryanair have announced this month that they won’t answer customer service questions on Twitter anymore. And it’s not just because people were less than kind to them on a platform not especially known for its sweetness and light. The Wall Street Journal reported this was a consequence of the chaos surrounding the platform’s blue check marks, meaning some unverified airlines fear their accounts could be easily mimicked. Fliers will have to find another way to publicly shame airlines into answering their questions while stranded in an airport.

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