This week, Uber introduced on-demand hot air balloon and boat rides for its customers in China. The feature, part of a new initiative called "Uber+Travel," is meant to connect people with activities and other services they might need while traveling. Uber previously offered hot air balloon rides in India.
Do you really need to order a hot air balloon from your phone? Probably not. But you’ve got to admit that the idea is intriguing. Hot air balloon rides aren’t the first just-for-fun offering from Uber. Since its launch in March 2009, the ride-hailing service has made everything from kittens to investors available with just a tap of a button. Here are a few of the more interesting promotions we remember from the past few years:
Uber was the sponsor of this year’s Puppy Bowl, and offered a "15 minute cuddle huddle" for customers in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York, Phoenix, and San Francisco. Cuddle time cost $30, with the cash going to canine shelters and rescues in each town.
Uber riders in Chile were able to request on-demand wine tours within the Uber app this February.
Uber Singapore offered pop-up Lion Dances to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
During the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, getting from one side of the crowded strip to the other can be a bit. . . problematic. In 2016, Uber offered on-demand helicopter rides from set locations on the strip, eliminating the headache of dealing with traffic. Uber also offered on-demand chopper rides in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, in January.
Uber has run its kitten promotion a few times now, most recently in October 2015, when it made the feature available in over 50 cities. For $30 you got 15 minutes of snuggle time with adoptable kittens. Money from each snuggle purchase went to support local shelters.
In September of 2015, Uber teamed up with EA Sports to bring its new game Madden NFL 16 to fans in 32 NFL cities for free. One rider in each city also won an "Xbox One ultimate prize pack," which included the game and a new Xbox One, delivered by an NFL player from the rider’s hometown.
Uber took the standard elevator pitch session to a new level, offering startups the opportunity to pitch their ideas to investors from the back of a vehicle. For one day only, anyone in Palo Alto, Mountain View, or Menlo Park, California, could request an "UberPITCH" ride, a free ride that gave them seven minutes of pitch time and seven minutes of feedback from a Google Ventures investor. Uber brought the promotion back this summer, this time in Europe.
In 2013, Uber partnered with The Home Depot to deliver on-demand Christmas trees to customers in 10 U.S. cities. Trees cost $135 and included an "Uber gift."
In 2013, Uber customers in Amsterdam were able to request a ride from Afrojack himself. The artist picked up riders in a Bentley Flying Spur 2013 and drove them to his homecoming show at the Amsterdam Dance Event.
In September 2013, Uber partnered with GE to offer DeLorean rides in San Francisco. The vehicles were available for one weekend only, and took riders on trip that lasted a maximum of 15 minutes.
July 2013: UberSloep
In July 2013, Uber offered riders in Amsterdam the opportunity to request a boat ride on the city's canals.
Uber has done a variety of promotions during the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin. In 2013, it partnered with Samsung for the promotion, so anyone with a Samsung Galaxy phone could ride for free. This year, Uber partnered with Elon Musk to offer Uber X rides in a Tesla Model S.
On Valentine’s Day in 2013, Uber riders in 15 major cities in the U.S. and Canada were able to request #RomanceOnDemand from within the Uber app, which included a bouquet of roses and a custom card.
Uber offered pop-up Mariachi Fiestas in San Francisco—$100 scored you a bottle of Tres Agaves margarita mix, a piñata "full of mystery and wonder," and one song preformed by a mariachi band. The year before, the piñatas were simply riding around with drivers, and Uber offered free ride credits to anyone who found them.
Did I leave off your favorite Uber promotion? Let me know what I missed by tweeting me: @Emily.