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Uber is offering yacht rentals in Dubai because it's still a luxury product

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On-demand boat parties for $82-a-person


Uber's stated mission is "transportation as reliable as running water." Now, that literally includes luxury vessels that operate on running water.

This Saturday, Uber is offering yacht rentals to residents of Dubai for 300 AED (or $82). That price includes free Uber rides to and from Marine Pier 7, where Uber's yachts are moored, as well as DJ music provided by global beach club brand Nikki Beach.

Uber's Dubai general manager, Christopher Free, said the new Uber Yacht service is an outgrowth of the success of the ride-hail company's on-demand helicopter service at Coachella, Sundance, and in the Hamptons. And last summer, Uber began offering boat trips across the Bosphorus for residents of Istanbul. He called the yacht rental "an exclusive party that residents can book just as they would an Uber car or chopper, with the same level of convenience, reliability and accessibility."

While $82 seems weirdly reasonable for a yacht, the promotion runs counter to the company's recent effort to position itself as a vital link between big city commuters and public transportation. Uber says its traditional ride-hailing service can help connect people in transit-starved neighborhoods to subway stations or bus depots, which can go a long way toward solving the dreaded "first / last mile challenge" experienced by transit agencies across the globe. And when Uber feels threatened by new rules or restrictions, it often launches public campaigns that tout its importance as a job provider to low-income communities.

So this side of Uber — the side that offers yacht parties and chopper rides to decadent richies — seems to fly in the face of the egalitarian image that Uber is desperately trying to maintain. Recent studies illustrate the hurdle that Uber still has to overcome. A survey by the American Public Transportation Association of so-called "supersharers" — people who use some combination of car sharing, bike sharing, and ride sharing — found that a majority list ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft at the bottom of their preferred modes of travel.

It's unclear where yacht sharing would fall on that list.