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Uber goes on expansion warpath in travel trade

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Car service teams up with United and Méridien Shanghai

Peer-to-peer car-ride service Uber is making headway in the travel trade by consolidating new tie-ups with big players. Most recently this includes the Le Royal Méridien Shanghai.

Uber is signed up to provide its signature black fleet of limousines for guests staying at Le Royal Méridien Shanghai at the touch of a button, offering also bottled water and Wi-Fi connectivity as they travel the city. The hotel is the first five-star Starwood Hotels & Resorts property that Uber Shanghai is partnering.

Last month, United Airlines also began integrating Uber services into its own iOS and Android apps. Passengers on United can see the types of vehicles available, estimated wait times and prices. After customers select a ride, the United app automatically transfers them to the Uber app or the Uber website to sign up for an account to complete the transaction. United passengers who complete their first transaction also receive 1,000 miles on their United frequent flyer program.

If there were any doubts left to Uber’s expansion ambitions, it dispelled them with the appointment of US President Barack Obama’s former campaign manager, David Plouffe, to be its senior vice president of policy and strategy.

But Uber’s activities have also uncovered an unsavoury side to its operations, with business rival Lyft accusing it of sending employees to pose as customers, order rides and then cancel them. San Francisco-based Lyft alleges that around 5,000 rides were cancelled. Business documents also came to light recently revealing an aggressive campaign by Uber in which the company sent workers to take rides on Lyft vehicles and poach drivers.

Meanwhile, in other news, Uber is banned in Germany from this week after Taxi Deutschland successfully sued the app maker in a Frankfurt court for violating transport laws. The company could now face fines of €250,000 per ride. The online car-sharing service Uber says it will continue operating across Germany despite the ban.

“You cannot put the brakes on progress,” the company said. “Uber will continue its operations and will offer Uberpop ride-sharing services via its app throughout Germany.” It promised to appeal and “exhaust all the legal possibilities.”

TTG Asia

[photo courtesy Uber.com]

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