(Click on "Travel Matters" (above)  to return to my main blog page)

Get Uber it


An email from TTG this a.m. concerned the £5 million raised by A2B transfers. £5 million is not a lot of money, the way travel tech works but to any proper agent, £5 million is a awful lot of money.

How do A2B operate? They have a website and you enter your from-and-to, when and at what time. Back comes a selection of offers. I tried a transfer from Heathrow to Gatwick airport. This was priced at £159.00 for a car by A2B. Uber wanted about £76 and a taxi firm I know, who are reliable and local, asked for £95. When I used to work as a chauffeur (and this is going back about 10 years, now) a run of this sort would cost about the same as the taxi firm, today.

In all fairness, the way Uber work is different. Any Uber driver does not view each job as a profit center, you have to rely on getting a job from Heathrow to Gatwick, then one from Gatwick to somewhere, then somewhere to somewhere else and eventually, a job to bring you home. Hopefully, the driver makes a profit on the day as a whole. A2B are working on the assumption that each job is a profit center for the driver.

What has the driver got to do with all this, anyway? Tech is wonderful, with wonderful numbers bandied around all the time; what seems to get forgotten, is that, at the end of the day, it is the driver who is actually doing all the real work.

The driver has a lot of cost sitting behind him. You have to get a half decent car (a good second hand Merc E class, will set you back around £20k) You need insurance ... about £150 a month for "Hire and Reward", you need a Private Hire licence which will cost you about £500 a year, compliance checks twice a year on the car at £60 a go and of course, with the sort of mileage you will be doing, an annual service at about £800 (as long as there is nothing seriously wrong) and a set of tyres per year, at about £400 a go (you can get taxi tyres which last longer, but the ride is horrendous). Not forgetting, that at about 20,000 miles a year, the car will last you about 3 years. And petrol, of course (or diesel).

What A2B offer is priced about right for the journey I had in mind. What Uber offer is the sort of cost which will get you shouted at, if you happen to mention that you are, say, the CEO of Uber. The model may be sustainable for Uber, if it is sustainable for drivers is a different matter. If other tech firms start to enter the market and make the "round trips ending at home" scenario for the driver no longer possible, then the concept for the driver becomes less viable. This not only applies to taxis, but to anything where the "gig economy" is taking a hold.

With Uber, in another century, one would be talking about the ethics of the workhouse in the same vein.

Recent Posts