How coronavirus has disrupted Uber, Lyft, Via and other ride-hailing services

Mar 31, 2020

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The novel coronavirus has impacted virtually every industry worldwide, and ride-hailing services are no exception. From eliminating carpool services to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to removing benefits for business travelers, here is a list of the major changes that Uber, Lyft and other ride companies have implemented in recent weeks.

FEWER benefits

Lyft business customers will soon lose a popular benefit: As of April 1, the ride-hailing company will no longer offer $5 in personal Lyft credit for every five business profile rides completed.

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The ride-hailing company is eliminating the promotion due to declining business travel due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to a notice emailed to customers Tuesday morning. As a concession, Lyft offered a $5 credit toward a future personal ride.

For those unfamiliar with the business profile rewards program, Lyft offers users the ability to toggle between business and personal profiles within a single Lyft account. The $5 credit was meant to incentivize customers to use Lyft exclusively, and could be stacked for deeply discounted or free personal Lyft rides.

This devaluation is a disappointment, especially at a time when most travel rewards programs are offering increased incentives to boost loyalty. For some travelers who live in a city where choosing between Lyft and Uber is a matter of preference, this change may tip the scales in favor of Uber.

Related: Why I’m keeping my Chase Sapphire Reserve

Lyft is keeping its other promotional benefits, including the ability to double-dip on earning points with Delta and Hilton for each dollar spent on rides. Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders will continue to earn 10x points per dollar on Lyft rides, while Chase Sapphire Preferred customers will earn 5x points. Amex cardholders can earn 25 Membership Rewards points through Rakuten for each dollar spent.

Uber eliminated a similar Uber Cash perk in early March, although the change was not necessarily tied to the coronavirus ourbreak. Under this discontinued promotion, Uber customers who pre-loaded their accounts with future credit received the following discounts:

  • $25 Uber Cash: Pay $24.50 (2% discount)
  • $50 Uber Cash: Pay $48.50 (3% discount)
  • $100 Uber Cash: Pay $95.00 (5% discount; although some accounts might show only a 4% discount)

No more carpools

“Social distancing” and “flattening the curve” have become household catchphrases in mere weeks as people around the world race to slow the contagious coronavirus. As a result, carpooling with strangers on ride shares is no longer an option. (In case you’re unfamiliar, carpool options like Uber Pool place riders headed in the same direction into a single vehicle, at a discounted rate for both parties.) Instead, only people who already know each other can share rides, such as members of the same household.

In response to New York City banning all shared rides, local service Via is offering a 20% discount to offset the cost difference.

Delivery services

As ride demand slows drastically, the ride hailing services have struggled to find ways to give their drivers enough income opportunities. Uber Eats has been around for some time now, but Lyft just announced that it’s entering the food delivery space on a pilot basis in the Bay Area.

Uber Eats is offering free delivery from local restaurants in the Bay Area as of March 16.

The company also reiterated its commitment to safety and hygiene, saying it is taking the following steps:

  • Contactless deliveries: Uber drivers will leave your food on your doorstep, and the company is working to provide delivery people with sanitization materials. Food items aren’t touched once they’ve been packed by the restaurant.
  • Helping affected delivery people: Uber is supporting delivery people and drivers with financial assistance in the event of a COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure that prevents them from working.
  • Supporting the community: Uber has committed to providing 300,000+ free meals on Uber Eats to health care workers and first responders in the U.S. and Canada.

Featured photo courtesy of Lyft.

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