In this Throwback Classic post, we’re talking about Uber Comfort. We covered Uber Comfort a few months ago, and now Uber is rolling out Uber Comfort to more cities. RSG contributor Paula Gibbins covers what Uber Comfort is, its roll out in cities nationwide, and how it’s affecting drivers.
Has Uber Comfort rolled out in your city? Let us know in the comments or via email how it has affected you and your earnings. Here is the full list of approved Uber Comfort vehicles. Not sure if you’re eligible? Here’s how to get access to Uber Comfort trip requests.
Uber Comfort sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Well, it was a bit of a shock for drivers in the Phoenix area when it was recently beta tested without their knowledge or consent. I spoke with a driver in Phoenix about his experience and while it was a shocker to begin with, he does see the overall upside of Uber Comfort. Unfortunately, the beta test roll-out just wasn’t quite handled very well.
Uber has been listening to drivers about the roll out and lack of announcement/information to drivers. According to Uber, “eligible drivers will receive an in-app notification and email letting them know they are eligible and providing more details around the driver experience.” Additionally, drivers will be notified in their apps when a Comfort trip is available.
What is Uber Comfort?
Uber Comfort is kind of a cross between an Uber X and an Uber XL as far as space goes. The concept seems to be to make the passenger comfortable by guaranteeing more room. For instance, if you have a long trip but are traveling with four or fewer people, you don’t necessarily want to be crammed into a Prius, which isn’t exactly known for its leg room. You’d likely be more comfortable in a crossover SUV that seats four people and gives you some space to relax and spread out.
The specifics, according to Uber, are that Uber Comfort is built for passengers who are always “on the go” and want a little extra comfort, like quiet time, the ability to stretch their legs, etc. From emails we’ve received, the majority of Uber Comfort rides seem to come from the airports, where riders are looking for a little more room for themselves and their luggage.
According to Uber, passengers who request Uber Comfort will also be able to request their ‘ideal temperature’ in advance and let drivers know when they’re looking for a quiet ride – like Uber quiet mode.
Uber specifically says:
This collection of rider preference features is unique from those found in Uber Black and Black SUV rides, which provides you access to more exclusive in-app options such as request help with luggage, premium support, and pickup by professional drivers.
Uber lists more legroom as a perk to passengers:
What is the cost? Again, that’s kind of a cross between and X and an XL. The cost is more than an X but less than XL because you’re not guaranteed an XL sized vehicle, but you’ll be given a vehicle that has been judged by Uber to give you more room. Here’s a brief breakdown of cost:
And, here’s what some drivers saw when Uber Comfort beta testing started:
Here is the full list of eligible vehicles for Uber Comfort and, according to Uber:
The full vehicle list is comprehensive, and will be listed on a vehicle website and blog post. The range anywhere from (but not limited to) a Toyota Camry, Dodge Durango, Audi SQ7, Chevy Tahoe, Honda Odyssey, and more that provide the minimum legroom requirements for Uber Comfort trips.
Several drivers have pointed out that Uber Comfort wait times have increased from the standard five minutes to 10 minutes for Comfort passengers. This means you will have to wait 10 minutes for a Comfort passenger before you can cancel and claim your cancelation fee. However, on the passenger side, passengers will pay higher per-minute wait time fees and higher cancellation fees on Uber Comfort than UberX when a driver needs to cancel.
Here’s What Drivers Should Expect from Uber Comfort
The Initial Roll Out of Uber Comfort
At first, the roll out in select cities was rough. According to one of our readers, one day, out of the blue, an Uber driver noticed that his next request for a passenger pick up was called Uber Comfort. It was something he’d never heard of or seen before, so he assumed it was just a fluke, a flaw in the system. It happens, no big deal.
This driver drives a full SUV, able to hold up to six passengers and is used to giving XL and Select rides only. He naturally assumed that this ride would be at the same rate as a regular XL or maybe somewhere between an XL and a Select. But, as it turned out, once he was finished with the trip, he was being paid less than XL and closer to what he’d get if he accepted X fares.
He wasn’t the only one who noticed this. Jason, the driver I spoke with, didn’t actually get any requests like this but had heard from his fellow drivers what was going on and immediately called Uber support to try to disable this feature on his phone. He did not want to get stuck doing these rides that pay him less than what he signed up for — he only wanted to pick up XL and higher option rides, not X.
At the time, Uber did not allow drivers to opt out of Uber Comfort unless they went to a Greenlight Hub. However, as Uber Comfort is rolling out to more cities, Uber says drivers will be able to opt-out of Uber Comfort at any time. Keep in mind that Uber Comfort fares will be at least 20% higher than UberX, not including surge or promotions, so it may be in your interest to take Uber Comfort rides over lower paying UberX rides.
How Might This Affect Uber XL?
It could negatively affect Uber XL, at least at the beginning. There are several people who take rides from the airport and just want a little extra room but don’t want to pay for an XL ride. This would obviously be a great option for passengers in that situation, but could hurt the thriving XL market at airports around the U.S.
In Jason’s experience as an XL driver, he knows people will pay more for a larger vehicle just because they want room. Even if it’s a single person riding in the vehicle, they want that comfort, but if they don’t have to pay for an XL but are giving more room than the smallest available model cars, they’ll do it time and again.
On the other hand, he knows that small SUVs that are marked as Uber Comfort will not necessarily replace XLs because, in a specific example he gave, if someone had surgery and needs a wider door and more leg room, they’ll still need to request an XL, a small SUV will not cut it and passengers will quickly realize this after testing the waters with Uber Comfort.
Uber Select, UberXL, Uber Black and Black SUV drivers are able to opt out of Comfort at any time in the app.
This is the full list of eligible vehicles for Uber Comfort.
Is There Any Way This Could Work for Drivers?
While it was a surprise and did not work well for full SUVs and other larger vehicles, Jason admits that he does see a market for this if used properly.
“I think it would be good if you had a small SUV,” explained Jason. “You have those small to medium sized SUVs out there running as Uber X that barely pays anything. I see the benefit for those guys. The X driver wants it because they see it as a kind of raise.”
Another upside he saw is many of these rides end up being longer rides, which means more money for those who end up taking those treks. An Uber X driver would earn more for those rides if they were booked under Uber Comfort, but an Uber XL driver would earn less than they would normally.
Where is Uber Comfort Available?
What was first a limited roll out to drivers in Phoenix, Atlanta and a few other cities has now grown tremendously. Here’s a list of where Uber Comfort is now available:
Uber Comfort is now available in Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Charleston, Charlotte, Chicago, Connecticut, Dallas, Fresno, Hampton Roads, Houston, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Madison, Memphis, Milwaukee, Nashville, New Jersey, New Orleans, Omaha, Orange County, Palm Springs, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Raleigh-Durham, Rhode Island, Richmond, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Tucson, Wichita, and Washington D.C.
Initially, the roll out of Uber Comfort was uncomfortable for many drivers, as they were not given any notice and prompted to take this unknown ‘Uber Comfort’ ride. However, over the last few weeks, drivers we’ve spoken to have come around to Uber Comfort. They appreciate getting paid more for rides of the same time/distance with Uber Comfort vs. UberX, and they appreciate passengers that are willing to pay a little more for comfort.
That’s not to say that Uber couldn’t have given more information to drivers or made it easier for them to contact support (as opposed to having to go into a Greenlight hub), but overall this is an improvement to some drivers’ pay, particularly if their car is on the list of approved Uber Comfort vehicles.
Readers, has Uber Comfort rolled out in your city? If so, what do you think of it?
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-Paula @ RSG