KYIV – Getting around Odesa just became a whole lot easier after the popular online transportation company Uber launched its service in the city last week. The San Francisco-based company joins Russia’s Yandex and Ukraine’s Uklon in offering online taxi services in the Black Sea port, a major tourist destination.
Odesa becomes the second city in Ukraine to offer Uber’s services after the company’s debut in Kyiv six months ago.
“Our goal is to ensure safe, fast, reliable and comfortable urban transportation for all residents and visitors to Odesa” said Alexei Stakh, the General Manager of Uber in Ukraine and the CIS. “We want the trip order to take only a few minutes and to be available at any time of day in any city location.”
Fees for the service starts at 5 UAH for the car and then 4.50 UAH per kilometer, with a minimum charge of 14 UAH, or 50 cents US. Users may pay by card or cash, an option available in only a handful of cities, including Kyiv, Dubai, Moscow and Singapore.
Replicating their Kyiv launch strategy, Uber offered free rides through Sunday (Feb. 5), with the promotional code ODESSA PAYMENT.719
Since launching California in 2011, Uber has jolted the taxi industry in 66 countries by offering significantly lower fares than traditional taxis. In many countries, drivers of traditional taxis have protested against Uber by blocking traffic, including in Paris, Budapest, and even Kyiv. Some countries, like Brazil, have passed laws banning the service on grounds that it fails to meet regulations.
The reception has been different in Ukraine, with a welcome from the government. Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko have both expressed support. The company touts Klitschko as “the first Uber user in Ukraine”.
“We highly appreciate the support we get from Ukrainian authorities”, says Uber representative Jevgeniy Kachalin, who confirmed that Uber “experienced a warm welcome in Odesa too.”
In Ukraine, the company promises a significant financial benefit for drivers. They can make up to 180 UAH ($6.50) per hour – just for being on the road – and earn bonuses after a certain amount of trips. Kyiv drivers make up to 16,000 UAH ($590) a month, “a fabulous amount for taxi drivers”, reports Culturemeter.od.ua, an Odesa cultural and social life portal.
For foreign business visitors, using an app that does not require Ukrainian or Russian language skills simplifies travel. The availability of of both cash and card options forced its competitors to follow suit.
Offering a plus business travelers who need receipts, emails are sent after each trip reporting the car model, itinerary, driver, and cost.
To boost safety, the Uber app allows riders to select drivers based on their name, photo, car model, and driver rating. They can call drivers on their personal phone numbers and can track the vehicle as it approaches. Riders can review drivers after their trips.
Foreign visitors do not require a new Uber app or a Ukrainian SIM card to use the service, so long as they have access to wifi.
UberSELECT, which offers luxury vehicles, is not available in Odesa. But Uber says all cars are foreign-make models dating from no older than 2008. Drivers are screened for experience and city knowledge.
The service launched to immediate success in Kyiv.
“Initial demand was so strong that we had challenges with car availability,” said Genia Shipova, regional spokeswoman for Uber.
Shipova attributes the company’s success in Kyiv to its tech-savvy citizens familiar with the company from travels abroad and from the city’s numerous foreign visitors.
Uber’s popularity in Kyiv has allowed it to offer further services, including UberSELECT, and to reduce rates on its standard service. In February, Uber’s basic rates in Kyiv were cut by about one third.
A ride to Boryspil Airport remains the same: 190 UAH ($6.75) from the left bank of the Dnieper River, and 270 UAH ($9.50) from the right bank. UberSELECT rates are unchanged.
The next targets for Uber expansion would seem to be Lviv, Ukraine’s top travel destination for foreign tourists, and Kharkiv, the nation’s second most populous city, after Kyiv. Odesa is Ukraine’s third most populous city.
For comments or news tips, please contact UBJ Reporter Lee Reaney at email@example.com.
Photo: At Uber’s June 30 launch in Kyiv, Uber paraphernalia combined hip with taxi motifs. (Credit: UNIAN/ Vyacheslav Ratynskiy)
Photo: While some big city mayors side with taxi companies and driver unions, Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko embraces Uber. Last June 30 at Uber’s Ukraine launch, in Kyiv, he talked, flanked by Arkadiy Vershebenyuk (l) Uber Ukraine general manager, and Anthony le Roux (r) Uber’s General Manager, Middle East and Africa. (Credit: UNIAN/Andrey Skakodub)Photo Largely used on smartphones, the Uber app dispenses with foreign language skills, allowing users to move over a digital city map, dropping a pin at pickup location and another at destination. (Credit: UNIAN/Andrey Skakodub)
Posted Feb. 5