Virgin Atlantic’s Taxi Share Service Is a Decent Start

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic has teamed up with Taxi2 (and it’s oddly-registered Tongan website taxi.to) to help passengers share cabs to their destination. This to me is a great idea, but they haven’t taken this far enough. Hopefully this is just the first step.

I remember back in my college days flying into Washington/Dulles airport dreading the long Washington Flyer bus ride into town. Sure, I wanted to take a cab, but those were expensive, so I always wanted to find someone to share. Fortunately, I flew Western Pacific once or twice and those guys didn’t care what you did onboard. (Heck, the flight attendants all wore different t-shirts, so you couldn’t even tell who worked for the airline.)

On one flight, they made an announcement on my behalf asking if anybody was going to GW and wanted to share a cab. Sure enough, there was a very cute girl who lived in the same building as I. Excellent. You would think this service would have been moved online about 5 minutes after the internet began, but that apparently wasn’t the case.

So now Virgin Atlantic is working with Taxi2 to do it. Go to taxi.to, sign up, and it’ll try to make a love connection for you. While I’m glad to see an airline moving in the right direction (especially an airline with its main base at an airport that has very expensive taxi rides to the city center), this isn’t enough.

This service just matches you up with anyone going around your time. What happens if you’re late? They tell people to only wait 15 minutes beyond your scheduled time and then just go. That’s helpful. This service is also only online, so it doesn’t help you once you’re in the air.

If Virgin Atlantic wanted to do this right, they’d create an application that ran on their airplanes in-seat video screen. Think about it. You have several hundred people flying into London with very few connections beyond London. What’s the chance someone on that flight will want to share a cab with you? Pretty good.

And if you’re delayed, who cares? You’re all delayed together. Most importantly, they already have the ability to put this together. You can chat with people at other seats, so they are all networked. Why not allow you to put out a taxi request? Seems like a no-brainer.

So while this new partnership is a decent start, it needs a lot of work to be a killer application.

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16 comments on “Virgin Atlantic’s Taxi Share Service Is a Decent Start

  1. How interesting that you used the word ‘killer’ in that last sentence. As I was reading the blog I thought well the first person who gets robbed or killed by sharing a taxi with a fellow passenger will sue (or their loved ones) and that will be the end of the service.

    But it’s no different then using a ‘Super Shuttle’ type shared van service, so I could see it being used. At least for rushed business people heading usually to the financial center of a city.

    Now for any New Yorkers reading this, how many times do you share cabs with strangers? A city like N.Y. could be a good judge on strangers sharing taxis with strangers.

  2. The last time I went to Heathrow my travel companion and I just took the tube into London. That didn’t used to be an option. I suppose a taxi would make sense if you had a family or a lot of baggage, but in general I think the tube is almost as fast and a lot cheaper (although it was damn crowded at rush hour.) Now for Gatwick, I could see this making more sense.

  3. This is a decent idea somewhere where public transport blows (ie; USA) but somewhere like London, if you really want to save cash, you can get the tube for only a few pounds. You’d need to pack a lot of people into a black cab to get a price anywhere as low as that.

  4. @Alex – public transport is phenomenal to and from the airport in some cities (SFO, PDX, DCA), and and pretty decent in many others (NYC, Chicago, Honolulu, Seattle). It’s also quite excellently priced at times – one can get from Manhattan to LaGuardia for $2.25.

    Our public transit, especially to airports, doesn’t blow as badly as it seems.

  5. @Gray — I wouldn’t list SFO among the airports with phenomenal public transportation access. Personally, I can’t complain because I am only a few blocks away from the Samtrans KX bus stop and can reach the airport in a few minutes for $1.75. But most of the Peninsula isn’t as lucky, and Caltrain to BART isn’t great (tried it once) and I hear really expensive now (Milbrae BART/Caltrain station to airport: $4.00 each way… and on top of that you get to change trains in San Bruno, I think… complete FAIL)

  6. woo hoo! Living in NYC, I love this concept!
    @David S – I’ve shared before with complete strangers, and loved it. That said, I live in a very safe neighborhood and have only asked kind looking women right next to me in the taxi line that are around my age and going to my neighborhood as well. Not sure how I’d feel sharing with some random guy, hmm.

    As for the public transport in the USA conversation I’m 50/50 for NYC. JFK in a minimum of about an hour from Manhattan for $7.25 each way seems a little high – but at least it’s more predictable than the traffic. Catching the bus in Harlem to get to LGA SUCKS, I don’t care that it’s only $2.25. EWR public xport is great, but really only if you live on the West side – and expensive too!

  7. I tend to think of SFO’s public transit connections as quite good, at least when I’m heading into the city of San Francisco itself, as it’s a direct ride on BART from the International Terminal. Better than OAK, where you have to take an AirBART bus at an additional fare to get to the BART station.

  8. Having flown into LHR over 80 times. I think the cab share is a great idea. Not one I would personally use, since traffic is a nightmare into London, and the Heathrow Express is my fav way to get into the city!

    Cabs will work for tourists, or those who live in more difficult parts of the city!

    Im gonna guess that the delay statement has to do with those clearing customs/baggage retrieval issues, and the morons who cannot read signs and get lost! A cluster of VS flights arrive around the same time from the Americas. Flight by flight on the Asia/SA arrivals would also work.

    Its a start…and thats the main thing!

    Im gonna guess that this service is probably more geared towards Americans and foreigners arriving in the UK…which is great, cause cab prices are insane over there. The British are not really in the mood to speak with strangers, neverless share a cab with some nonstop yacking yank!…cause you Americans are very very social….and love to talk our ears off!. lol Us Brits are just more reserved and like to keep to ourselves (most of us)

  9. Does this service work for non Virgin flights (and furthermore at cities that Virgin does not serve)? I would love to use this service, but since Virgin does not serve Chicago…that poses a problem!

  10. @ Embo:

    Haha! I love the M60 from Harlem to LGA! I think part of the fun is the relentless over crowding. It’s much better, tho, early Saturday mornings, prior to mileage runs :p

    @Oliver – I agree. My bad – my San Francisco bias influenced my rash decree. But – I am still saying BART is pretty phenomenal for SF and East Bay connections – super convenient, but – sadly, it’s getting quite expensive. Almost the cost of booking a Super Shuttle (about five bucks cheaper) from SF.

  11. @Gray @David M — San Francisco proper is just a small part of the Bay Area, of course. If I was living in the city (or going there from SFO), I’d certainly find BART convenient, too.

    I used to take SuperShuttle to and from the airport to the various locations of the peninsula where I lived. When I became “rich”, I gave up on that, because the amount of time wasted waiting for the shuttle and then driving around random other neighborhoods to pick up more people was just not worth the $10 or so saved over a cab. After a long flight back from Europe, the last thing I want is wait in the rain for 30 minutes for the right shuttle and then take the “Tour the Peninsula”.

    I’ve also been known to rent cars one-way from local Hertz places to the airport. Often insignificantly more expensive than a cab, plus I got a car for 24 hrs and 1700 BMI miles. Sadly, the prices have gone up SIGNIFICANTLY in the last year, so it’s no longer a viable option.

  12. Cranky:

    A friend of mine started a website doing what you describe several years ago; hitchsters.com — check it out.

    -BW

  13. Gray wrote:

    @Alex – public transport is phenomenal to and from the airport in some cities (SFO, PDX, DCA), and and pretty decent in many others (NYC, Chicago, Honolulu, Seattle). It’s also quite excellently priced at times – one can get from Manhattan to LaGuardia for $2.25.
    Our public transit, especially to airports, doesn’t blow as badly as it seems.

    Ok let me qualify “blows”. I agree in some cities in the US the public transport is good, but often only if you want to go downtown. Even then we’re only talking about a few major cities.

    Also its often very complex to understand as a tourist or foreigner. Imagine for example you’ve never been to LGA, add in only a basic understanding of english and the public transport doesn’t look so easy after all. I’ve been to New York many times but I still get confused trying to get the subway to JFK. Is it an express train I need, do i need an A or a C train, is the Lefferts Blvd train going to right way.

    Thats just NYC, I just went through DTW and SAN and the public transport there, well lets just say I stand by “blows” in this case.

    Compare this for example to AMS, where almost every train in the country goes via the airport. Or HKG where theres a fast easy to understand rail link to downtown.

  14. MRD wrote:

    Does this service work for non Virgin flights (and furthermore at cities that Virgin does not serve)? I would love to use this service, but since Virgin does not serve Chicago…that poses a problem!

    Indeed. Virgin Atlantic has teamed up with these guys, but anyone can use it.

  15. Miles and More of Lufthansa just started an IPhone Application which includes a taxi sharing option. It is a location based service which shows you who in your close vicinity is also looking for a cab and wants to share. Besides that the app also has a social network part where you can exchange travel hints and tips.

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