Uber in the U.K. is back in the driver’s seat as more people head out of their homes as COVID lockdown restrictions ease. Numbers returned to pre-pandemic levels and bounced back quicker than the rideshare giant expected, Financial Times reported on Monday (June 7).
Business in the U.K. and parts of Europe returned to pre-pandemic levels in mid-May, with Uber tapping other types of transportation — even traditional taxis — to drive expanded availability outside of big cities. In the week ending May 17, Uber’s business was back to almost 80 percent of its pre-pandemic levels compared to the same period in 2019, according to Uber’s first-quarter results last month.
Uber has grown its business to service 40 smaller cities, reaching over 340 locations in Europe. Uber was able to offer its services in Spain, Austria and Turkey by collaborating with local taxi companies.
“We were frankly not anticipating the speed of the recovery we have seen in some key geographies and definitely the U.K.,” said Anabel Diaz Calderon, Uber’s regional general manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, per FT.
Since the start of this year, 17,000 taxi drivers across Europe have joined Uber. Their cars can be booked through the app or hailed on the street as normal.
“The partnership with taxis is a strong lever for the business in many geographies and is actually allowing us to grow or unlock multiple regions,” said Diaz Calderon.
The demand for rides in some cities — Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds — is so strong that it is outstripping the number of available drivers, per FT.
“We are anticipating we will need up to 20,000 additional drivers for the growth we need in the U.K.,” said Diaz Calderon.
Uber drivers in the U.K. are considered employees instead of independent contractors following February’s Supreme Court ruling. They are now entitled to numerous benefits, including a base minimum salary and paid time off.
In the U.S., Uber has been dangling signing bonuses in an attempt to get more drivers on the road. In the week of May 17, some 33,000 U.S. drivers signed on with the company, many of whom stopped working last year when the pandemic took hold.
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