By Agence France-Presse
While Uber has changed ground transport in many cities, Sao Paulo’s infernal traffic jams have sparked a new app that opens the sky to commuters: Voom, a helicopter taxi service that charges according to distance and the passenger’s weight.
It’s a godsend for those in a rush — but only if the weather permits.
Gustavo Boyde, a Brazilian living in the United States who goes to Sao Paulo for business, is one of those who says the hops above the city are the only way to get around.
“I’ve opted for helicopters,” he said, pointing to the metropolis sprawling beyond the horizon as he choppered from a chic central district to the airport.
Sao Paulo — South America’s biggest city, home to 12 million residents within its municipal limits and millions more in satellite towns — is regularly choked by gargantuan traffic jams.
There are 5.9 million vehicles, or one for every two people. At peak hour, traffic can be backed up as much as 576 kilometers (358 miles).
Not so pricey
A new venture launched in April by Europe’s Airbus, Voom has taken a page out of Uber’s marketing manual to put clients above it all — at a competitive price.
The app asks passengers to enter their weight and that of any baggage, then immediately sends the calculated fare.
Boyde’s run, from the southeastern neighborhood of Itaim Bibi to the airport some 30 kilometers (20 miles) away, takes nine minutes and costs $150.
Compare that with the market rates before Voom became available. Individual helicopter companies wanted 10 times more — and trips needed to be booked at least two days in advance.
“Our goal is to make helicopter transport accessible to more people, so that the helicopter is seen as an alternative,” said Voom’s executive director, Uma Subramanian.
In Boyde’s case, taking a helicopter through the app was a no-brainer. Using a traditional taxi on the clogged roads would have cost him $50 and an hour and a half of frustrating stop-and-go.
“I chose Voom because it fits within my travel budget, it’s economical and it’s practical,” Boyde said.
“Those are two hours I can now use for work, which is handy given the tight schedule I have,” he said.
According to Subramanian, saturated roads in Latin America mean that “people lose up to 10 hours a week” stuck in traffic.