United Airlines customers can now book a ride with Uber direct from the United mobile app on their iPhone or Android device. The two companies announced the deal Wednesday, including a limited time bonus of 1,000 MileagePlus points for a new Uber sign-up making a booking through the app (no word on which department at UA keeps the rest of the commission). The United app will show availability of cars as part of a reservations detail or allow booking directly from the front page of the app. Hyatt announced a similar deal today.
Click on the Uber icon and get the map option to see what cars are available nearby and to set your destination (or, as in the case of my demo here, be informed there are no cars available).
There is also an option to link out to Uber directly from the reservation:
Once you put in the start and end points the United app redirects you to the Uber app to complete the transaction.
Uber still handles all the billing and such so it really is just a shortcut to the Uber interface integrated into United’s app. This reminds me a bit of the deal Delta and US Airways used to have (and maybe still do) with Boston Coach to provide ground transfers for passengers in the NYC shuttle markets. It was just a booking service but the vendor was integrated into the flow so that it was convenient to arrange. The United/Uber deal is similar, but with a much broader footprint. Uber has 130+ cities in their service area today (not all are UA destinations) so lots more opportunity for customers to crossover.
Generally speaking I am rather impressed by the relatively rapid pace with which United continues to add features to their mobile apps. Even with the disparate feature sets between Android, iPhone and Windows Mobile the carrier has continued to push out updates and additions which, generally speaking, talk to the need of real travelers. Things like the recently introduced scanning of passports by taking a photo, for example, aren’t necessarily perfect (I’ve seen some pretty funny OCR errors) but it is nice to see a very forward-thinking approach in the mobile space. I’d like it even more if all three platforms got the updates and it worked a bit more reliably, but this is still generally good progress.
Or, I suppose I could be a cynic and note that this is basically just an advertising module now on the front page of the app, consuming space where something useful could have been. And given my general apathy about the so-called Uber revolution I’m not entirely sure this particular feature is the one which should be celebrated. After all, if you’ve got the device and Uber account already then you also almost certainly have the app. And you don’t really need United to help you make that booking.
As for the new website release, that’s still being advertised as “later this year” so I’m not holding my breath. No doubt that the mobile segment is growing rapidly, but the lack of progress on the main website after years of promises is somewhat disheartening.