Uber Sicily – where did you go?
Surely by now it must be one of the most convenient ways to arrive at a new destination. You grab your hand luggage, walk straight past the luggage belt and take a deep breath of fresh air in your new, exciting destination. Naturally, these days I can’t be bothered doing any planning ahead, and the same applies to the airport transfer. In short, in Uber I trust. That’s also why we took somewhat for granted that Uber Sicily would be there to welcome us with open arms. I also tend to make the mistake of trusting the airport to offer strong enough WiFi for its passengers 24/7. I dismiss the radical thought that one may have WiFi issues whilst using the app. I also forget about the fact that many drivers ask you to meet further away. Therefore I end up too far from the airport WiFi.
Oh sh**, no Uber in Sicily! Now what…
Our trip to Catania, Sicily, got off to a poor start when we opened up the Uber app and not a single driver was near by. That’s when we realised we have to actually think for ourselves for a change. We have become so accustomed to click the screen of the Uber app and jumping in a reliable ride that knows where to take us, without having to try to speak the language. It’s funny how you learn to rely on technology and get irritated the very minute it fails you. Rewind a couple of years and we would have expected to follow the bus signs, read maps at the bus stop, wait 40 minutes for the next bus to leave and try to work out whether you buy the ticket from the driver, a machine or a kiosk inside the terminal and whether you need to stamp it or not (turns out that taking the Ali bus in Catania you not only need to stamp your ticket but also rip along the dotted line first!). Now we found ourselves incredibly annoyed that we even had to try to make sense out of all of this.
Why we crave for apps that make things easier
This made me realise how we have learnt to crave convenience and simplicity. Uber in Sicily would have hit exactly this spot. Our lives are spinning in multiple directions at any given time (I will soon write a blog post about how I need to pack my suitcase to cater for a wedding, a funeral, cold climate and winter jackets, hot climate and flip-flops and simultaneously arrange an international move whilst travelling through 7 countries and working almost full time). In a world where my mind struggles to keep up with all the responsibilities, signals, white noise and stress, it’s no surprise that any solutions to make my world a more peaceful place will be truly embraced. And this is why I was sad to learn that Italy has just banned Uber.
The ruling: Italy bans Uber in Sicily and on the continent
In early April 2017 a court banned the use of smart phone apps to book rides, according to Reuters. The ruling means that all forms of Uber Sicily transport, such as Black, Lux, SUV, X, XL, Select and Van are all prohibited from promoting or advertising its services in all of Italy. The court stated these as unfair competition. Instead, the court ruling favoured the suit filed by the major traditional taxi associations.
What Uber actually offers
Italy’s traditional taxi associations were able to get their case through in the Italian court. The ride hasn’t been smooth for Uber in other European countries either. But I genuinely believe that it is the customer’s will to allow companies like Uber to enter the market and shake up the service culture.
What Uber offers is convenience and they are also very good at reducing the customer’s anxiety. They do this by showing the car on a map so you know exactly how long it will take for it to reach you. Forget standing in the rain with your suitcases, contemplating whether to give the taxi company a call, if they forgot. Introducing and app that takes away the stress of travel arrangements has certainly improved my trips and has made the city more accessible. In cities like New York you can choose to car pool with other customers, which reduces the cost for everyone. Often you still get the car to yourself.
Aren’t Uber cars uninsured and dangerous?
It is understandable if you are concerned over the responsibilities and insurances of the cars. But did you know that in many locations only licensed taxi drivers are allowed to drive Uber cars? In Finland, an evening paper called Iltalehti went as far as asking anyone spotting an Uber car to call 112 (equivalent of 911 or 999). Later on, the police asked the concerned consumers not to call the emergency number but still report the cars.
The Driver’s view on Uber
For example, in Newcastle upon Tyne, in the North East of England, we always asked if the drivers prefer driving as an independent Uber entrepreneur or if times were better working for an employer. We always got the same answer: the times are changing so the taxi industry should keep up. With Uber, they were losing less money, as it is impossible for a customer to run out of a taxi without paying for the trip. The passengers also seemed nicer, as they know they will be receiving a rating from the driver later on. However, in London there have been debates whether the employees should be eligible for benefits, such as pension. Currently the company contract sees drivers as independent entrepreneurs that have access to the Uber app.
How Uber co-operates with taxi companies in Germany
There are great examples of merging Uber’s technology and traditional taxi operators together. In Berlin we were surprised to see both Uber and regular taxis on the same app. Although Uber cars were cheaper, 50% of the time we booked a traditional taxi through the app as it was closer. We thought this was a brilliant idea – let the consumers decide for themselves! In Italy, the court unfortunately stripped the consumers of this right. The traditional taxi companies refused to work with Uber in Sicily completely. We truly hope Italy has woken up to the need for change and will introduce other ways of responding to the market.
Try it and decide for yourself
When you give something a go for the first time, you will know whether you enjoyed using the service or not. Uber has made trying their app simple and offer the first lift free if you use a promo code. You are welcome to use this promo code ks1k1ue to get your first lift free. Once you create your account, you too can start earning free lifts by sharing your personal promo code with others. Unfortunately Uber Sicily does currently not exist, but I hope you can use the code elsewhere. If you had a good experience, share the love!