Uber’s expanding into air travel, but not with planes—it’s started offering hot air balloons in Turkey

Uber’s expanding into air travel, but not with planes—it’s started offering hot air balloons in Turkey

From minivans to sleigh rides, Uber is constantly finding new ways to ferry its 131 million customers across the world. But if you’re scared of heights, the company’s latest method of transport might not be for you.

“Uber Balloons” will see the ride hailing app roll out a 1.5 hour hot air balloon ride in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site of Göreme National Park in Cappadocia, Turkey.

The journey — which is expected to set customers back $159 each — will depart at sunrise and lift passengers more than 3,000 feet in the air, the company said in a statement.

“What better way to help people literally go anywhere with Uber than by making one of the most iconic travel experiences in the world available in our app,” said Anabel Diaz, Uber’s vice president of global mobility.

“Turkey is one of our most popular destinations among international travelers, and this is a new way to use our app to access a magical experience during their visit to the country. “

Sleigh rides and ‘Coronation Carriages’ 

The rollout of Uber Balloons marks its latest unique transport option as the company appeals to both local markets and tourists in its quest for international expansion.

Uber users in Europe are already able to take a boat in Mykonos, Greece, or hail a sleigh ride in Lapland using the Reserve function. To mark King Charles III’s ascent to the throne in May, the company even launched its own “Coronation Carriage” to let users ride like royalty.

Uber Balloons, which can be booked via the company’s Uber Reserve app, also underlines the company’s growing presence in Turkey, where international rides have grown 30% in the last year, the company said. 

Cappadocia is one of Turkey’s most popular tourist destinations, famed for its unique rocky terrain. The region was responsible for nearly a tenth of Turkey’s 51.4 million tourists last year, based on data from the country’s tourism ministry.

Turkey is aiming to pull in 60 million tourists over 2023, a mammoth increase on last year’s near-record figure, and will likley hope a new partnership with Uber will increase tourists’ ease of travel in Cappadocia.

The ride-hailing and delivery service is constantly looking for new ways to expand as it pulls away from rival company Lyft in terms of both market share and valuation.

Alongside tourist focused offerings like hot air balloon rides, Uber has also updated its everyday uses to appeal to a wider customer base. 

In May, the group started offering a ride service for 13 to 17-year-olds, which would allow parents to track their kids’ journeys while offering enhanced safety features like a pin verification system and audio recording.  

The company also added more features in June to help customers ferry themselves from the airport entrance to the security gate and expanded the use of Uber Reserve.

CEO Khosrowshahi even moonlighted as a rider and delivery driver for the Uber’s “Project Boomerang” to better understand how the company could attract more drivers while enhancing customer experience. 

He told the Wall Street Journal he noticed drivers were often treated with aggression, and decried the laborious sign-up process and anxiety over maintaining a high rating.

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