Uber ride to airport costs rider $277 with surge pricing

February 12, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Uber and other ride apps are all the buzz right now. It's like your own personal car service-linked to your credit card, making it easy for people to get around the city and suburbs. But there are questions about Uber's pricing system, and how one person's car ride was about the same cost as a round trip flight.

The smartphone Uber app that uses GPS to pinpoint you and pick you up is wildly popular, but some are not happy about what's known as "surge pricing" during extreme cold, snow and peak times.

Uber cabs don't participate in surge pricing, but that higher amount can be about 3, 4 or 5 times the normal rate if you get an Uber x or a black car.

"They're banking on the fact that those people in a bind are just saying yes," Stephanie Weinstein said.

Weinstein agreed to surge pricing recently, during one of those polar vortex days. When her cab cancelled, she desperately needed a ride to the airport she ordered a black car and agreed to pay "3.75 times " the normal rate on the Uber X screen. Weinstein says she knew it would be pricy, but her jaw dropped when she found out her ride from River North to O'Hare was $277.

"I was just in complete shock hoping that it was incorrect. And my first thought was to not use them again," Weinstein said.

When asked if he would pay that amount, Uber Midwest Regional Manager Andrew MacDonald said, "If I agree to the multiple and I need to go to the airport and that was my only option then, yes I would have."

On New Year's Eve, one customer paid $85 for 7-mile trip on Uber X while another paid $136 to go 6 miles in a black car. MacDonald said surge pricing is about supply and demand- and is transparent.

"There are two checkpoints for anyone who takes a trip on surge pricing so they see a screen confirming the multiple, and at high levels of surge they type in the multiple they're about to pay," MacDonald said.

Weinstein says it wasn't clear, and she thought the 3.75 could have been a percentage increase.

The Chicago City Council is currently reviewing an ordinance that would regulate ride sharing companies like Uber.

"They don't have the necessary rules and regulations top make sure consumers are protected," Alderman Anthony Beale, 9th Ward, said.

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