x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Chauffeured limousines by app service opens in Dubai

Uber is currently available with a limited range of cars including BMW 5 and 7 series as well as Audi A6.

DUBAI // A company accused by regulators in the United States and Canada of running unlicensed taxi and limousine services has opened in Dubai.

Uber offers luxury, chauffeur-driven cars via a smartphone app. It initially has a limited range of BMW 7 series, Lexus ES and Audi A4s. The minimum fare is Dh35.

The company was launched in 2009 and operates in more than 35 cities in 17 countries in North America, Europe and Asia. It is recruiting a community manager as part of its Dubai team.

"We'll be testing and tweaking for the next several weeks and working hard to have more cars available every day," the company's blog says.

To order a car customers must download the Uber app for iPhone or Android. They are then asked to provide their name, email, mobile phone number and credit card details. Customers can track the location of the car they have booked.

In other cities the company also offers low-cost UberX taxi services, which can undercut normal taxi fares. It is not known if they plan this for Dubai, or if the Roads and Transport Authority would approve it.

No one at Uber or the RTA was available for comment.

Many taxi users in Dubai had never heard of the company.

"I'm not sure if it's something I would use, to be honest, the price seems a bit high for someone who just wants to get from A to B as quickly as possible," said Imran Yousuf, an IT manager.

Paul Gannon, a services manager, said: "I can see some people wanting to arrive in style to an event but, realistically, if they only have a handful of cars, then customers might not be able to book the cars for the day and time they want them."

Samita Javed, from India, thought the service would have a niche market but could not compete with the price or convenience of normal taxis.

"You don't need to go to the bother of downloading an app and registering with a company to hire a taxi in Dubai," she said.