VIRGIN Australia has cut short a promotion with controversial share-ride company Uber after an angry consumer backlash.
The airline was offering $40 off an Uber ride with any tickets sold for flights in 2015 in a deal that had many passengers stumped.
Uber has been the subject of much debate throughout the country with Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales imposing hundreds of fines against “unauthorised” drivers operating illegally, and without valid insurance.
GOVERNMENT WARNING: Uber drivers may be slammed with $110,000 fine.
The company relies on a phone app to connect passengers and drivers who use their private vehicles to pick up “fares” and deliver them to their destination at about half the price of a normal taxi.
Katie Curran from Uber said they had already racked up millions of trips in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, the Gold Coast and Geelong.
“Since our launch in Australia, Uber has grown exponentially in every city we operate in,” said Ms Curran.
“We are becoming the transport option of choice for many people.”
A Virgin Australia spokeswoman said the offer was limited to Uber’s fully regulated UberBlack and UberTAXI service — not its low cost model UberX — even though the online promotional material said otherwise.
“At Virgin Australia we are always looking for ways we can deliver added value to our customers,” she said.
“The Uber campaign offers customers a value add in the form of a voucher when flying.”
But passengers took to Virgin Australia’s Facebook page to register their disappointment in the deal.
“Really Virgin — partnering with a completely illegal service in Australia?” posted Frankie Donelan.
“There are many, many, many legitimate car hire companies — why would you feel the need to use one that is not?”
“At the very least I am surprised at Virgin’s association with such a controversial business,” said Roger Cook.
Jesse Truong said he would not be flying with Virgin until the partnership ceased.
“Virgin promoting Uber is absolutely disgusting,” said Mr Truong.
Late on Monday November 10 Virgin Australia took the decision to end the promotion at midnight on Tuesday November 11 in response to customer concern.
Australian Taxi Industry Association chairman Blair Davies said it was not a good move for Virgin to team up with Uber, which was yet to comply with strict safety regulations.
“Virgin is a reputable company operating in a very strict regulatory environment in order to keep passengers safe, and they’re partnering with a company that has considerable issues,” Mr Davies said.
He said Uber had complied with strict regulations in New York City, and should do the same here.
“If they want to play in Australia, they have to play by our rules,” Mr Davies said.