This is potentially a big win for Hopper — if it turns out that Uber's UK rideshare customers will want to book flights in the Uber app. Uber is trying to prove that use case.
A small percentage of Uber’s UK rideshare customers within the next week are expected to be able to start booking domestic and international flights from within the Uber app, and the full rollout in the UK is expected to be completed by this summer.
Several of Hopper’s fintech products, including those enabling customers to freeze airfares, cancel flights for any reason, or rebook or get refunds in the event of flight disruptions, all for a fee, are expected to be available at launch.
The partnership sees Hopper forging a partnership with Uber, whose boss Dara Khosrowshahi was a longtime Expedia Group CEO. Khosrowshahi told Skift last summer that he wouldn’t be involved in making Uber’s travel partnership decisions because of a potential conflict of interest. He remains a board member of Expedia Group, which sees its mission as powering the type of business-to-business partnerships that Hopper just did with Uber.
A source familiar with discussions between Hopper and Expedia about a potential flights partnership said Expedia walked away from the discussions when it became clear that the economics would be inferior for Expedia. Hopper and Expedia already have a short-term rental partnership, with Expedia’s Vrbo providing vacation rental inventory to Hopper.
Hopper co-founder and President Dakota Smith said he sees several potential use cases for Uber’s rideshare customers to book flights within the Uber app.
Citing the fact that Uber has such a large customer base, Smith said “even if a small subset is interested in booking trips, that could be really material.” That means it may be a substantial boost to Hopper’s financial results.
Hopper already generates about 40 percent of its revenue from its third-party partnerships through Hopper Cloud and often cites Capital One Travel as its signature partner. Hopper also has fintech partnerships with Agoda and Marriott.
Still, Smith said in the long run since Uber has such a large customer base it has the potential to become a “linchpin” of Hopper Cloud.
“We’re incredibly pleased to introduce flight bookings as the latest addition to Uber’s suite of travel booking options,” said Andrew Brem, general manager at Uber UK, as part of the launch announcement Wednesday. “Perfect for business travelers and tourists alike, our new functionality will make the booking and managing of air travel simple and stress-free, with the booking process taking as little as one minute in the Uber app. Over the last 12 months with the addition of rail, coach, and now flight bookings, Uber is truly a one-stop travel solution.”
In addition to its own ridesharing products, Uber over the last year began offering several travel services, including car rentals and other ground transportation, rail, tours and activities and itinerary management for Gmail users.
The big hole in Uber’s offerings at the moment is accommodations.
An Uber spokesperson said the company is launching its variety of travel products first in the UK as a way to test its viability in a controlled manner.
One potential glitch in the implementation is that although UK Uber users would be able to book both domestic and international flights in the app from the UK, they wouldn’t be able to book flights when they are in the U.S. or elsewhere outside the UK, the companies confirmed.
The Uber spokesperson, who said the company likely started talking with Hopper about a deal late last year or early in 2023, saw its fintech products, which offer various travel protections, as one of Hopper’s competitive advantages and a factor in why Uber chose Hopper for this agreement. He also cited Hopper’s opportunity to take some of the stress out of air travel.
Smith of Hopper argued that another advantage that Hopper has is that its technology is fairly new compared with rivals so it can implement partnerships faster than rivals and also customize them.
“To book a flight, Uber app users simply need to enter their travel details, including where they will be traveling to and from along with dates,” the Uber announcement stated. “Customers will then be able to select their departing flight and returning flight if a round trip. With major carriers, users will be able to select seats in the app and then pay, just as they would for any Uber service.”
One of the lingering questions is whether — and how many — Uber rideshare customers would want to book flights, ground transportation, and experiences, and perhaps eventually accommodations, through the rideshare app. That’s one of the many questions Uber’s UK test of travel bookings aims to answer.
Note: Skift updated this story to include information about partnership talks between Hopper and Expedia.
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Photo credit: Uber will begin to offer flight booking in its app for UK Uber users. Photo credit: Uber