Understanding Uber: Pros and Cons

What you and your travelers should know about the ride-sharing service

service key
• UberX: The least expensive service; drivers use their own cars for up to four riders;

• UberXL: Low-cost, cars seating at least six; expect an SUV or minivan;

• UberTaxi: Licensed taxicabs;

• UberBlack: Executive luxury service; depending on location, drivers may have commercial license and commercial insurance.

Safety First
While stories of harassment by Uber drivers do make news, the chances are minuscule based on volume of ridership. I prefer to use UberBlack service , as I feel safer with a driver who has a chauffeur license, rather than someone who drives a personal car and might be new to this kind of job.

While most corporate travel policies and meeting-travel details are silent on the usage of ride-sharing offerings such as Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and the like, the chances are high that your travelers are using these services. With Uber in more than 55 countries (the company is valued at $50 billion, as reported on CNN), it behooves planners to understand how the service works.

 Uber's app is really slick and easy to use. You can select a level of service (see "Service Key" at left) and request an estimated fare before deciding to book, or compare fares for different service levels. See how much time it will take for a driver to get to you (often just a few minutes) and how many Uber cars are in the vicinity.

 Fares are usually lower than taxis and black cars. However, watch for surge pricing during emergency or peak times. The Uber app clearly reveals when surge pricing is in effect. Choose to be alerted when such pricing ends or decide to take the higher fare (which at that point might be higher than a taxi or car service).

 The drivers I've encountered have been friendly and courteous. A few have offered amenities such as mints, tissues or bottled water.

 A receipt is emailed to me within minutes of getting out of the car and has the driver's name and plate number (useful just in case I have left an item behind).

These are some of the reasons why so many people are now "Uber-ing it," not only for personal transit but also for meetings and business events. However, the service isn't perfect.

 Uber cannot pick up at all airports due to airport licensing/fee challenges. Transportation to airports usually is allowed; pickup upon arrival at the airport might not be.

 If splitting a fare with someone else, they also are required to have an Uber account.

 GPS location services aren't perfect. I have had drivers looking for me blocks away. Yes, I can and should verify the address, though I might not know it if standing outside a hotel's front doors. Every driver I've had phones me, so we work out the location issues, albeit with occasional time delays. (Be sure your online profile contains your current cell number; updating that via the app isn't always possible.)

 Drivers often do not live in the area in which they drive, so unfamiliarity with the roads and major attractions has been common, in my experience. They rely on GPS navigation systems and don't always take the most efficient route. If you know a better way, tell the driver.

Uber features are expanding rapidly and vary by location (for example, in five cities UberEats can deliver dinner to your hotel), so it's challenging to keep abreast of all that this company offers (not to mention its competitors). For now, these fundamentals should give you a good start toward guiding your travelers.

Carol Margolis is a business-travel strategist at Business Travel Success and founder of Smart Women Tra­ve­lers.