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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Uber Diaries: Uber For Rich People.


Pickup: Portland International Airport.

The guy had airport ID and a "crew"tag on his bag, so I imagined he worked for an airline, but I didn't recognize the logo on his shirt.

"We need to pick up my friend at the Atlantic terminal before we head out to the hotel."

The Atlantic terminal is the place where private or charter planes land. It's not the sort of place a "normal" person would normally go to, and certainly not a place where there would be many Uber pickups. But it turns out, I knew exactly where the Atlantic terminal was because it's where the Timbers landed after winning the MLS Western Division championship last winter.
We pick up the second passenger and are on our way to Beaverton. One person is from Denver, while the other is from California's central coast. It seems like they may not have seen each other for a couple of weeks and they spend part of the ride catching up.

Once that was done, I had some questions about their work. What sort of charter flights do they work on?

"It's a service where you can call up and get a plane to take you where you want to go. It's kind of like Uber for rich people."

I ask how much like Uber it really is. How long do you have to wait between calling for an airplane and taking off?

"It depends on a few things, mostly the level of service you choose, Normally you'll have to wait about one day, but if you've put enough money into this, you can get a plane in a couple of hours sometimes."

The guy from Denver chimes in:

"For us, we get at least two hours notice before we need to take off. So we know we've got this thing going out of Hillsboro and down to California, and we'll probably be in San Diego and Orange County this week, but that could all change."

As I listen, this all sounds very attractive to me. I kind of like the idea of getting a phone call and hopping on a plane to a destination you didn't know at the start of the day. It's like of like driving Uber, where you never know where you'll be in the next hour, but with even bigger distances.

The rest of the ride was spent talking about different sorts of planes, the insane security the Secret Service requires when the President travels, and, of course. the Faroe Islands. Because how can you have an Uber ride without talking about the Faroe Islands.

I like these guys a lot, and as I drop them off, I wish I could chat with them more, and maybe I'll pick them up for another ride one day. But there's pretty much no chance I'll ever meet them at their work. The "private jet on demand" world will probably never be within my financial reach.

As they take their bags out of the back of the vehicle, I offer them each a firm handshake and say, "Thanks for using Uber for poor people."

Drop off: DoubleTree Beaverton.

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