I previously wrote about how the Via rideshare service is a great option for getting around New York City, especially within Manhattan. However, Via was a big failure when I tried to use it to get to the airport for my return flight from Newark back to Charlotte.
Don’t get me wrong – Trips One through Six bordered on fabulous, and you can read about them here. But Via left a lot – and I do mean A LOT – to be desired on my way out-of-town. Picking up where I left off…
EXPECTATIONS SET BY VIA
First, some background so you know what my expectations were before I booked Via for my trip to EWR. While I was tooling around NYC on my weekend jaunt, Via was touting on its website that passengers could use the service to reach JFK, La Guardia, and Newark airports for a very good price, just $54.95 to Newark for two people.
Now I’m naturally a skeptic, especially since Via service (with very limited exceptions) is limited to coverage in Manhattan below 125th Street. And although Via claims to provide service 24/7, I needed to leave Manhattan around 6:00 am Sunday morning for Newark airport (and definitely no later than 6:30).
So, I hedged my bet: I texted Via AND emailed Via to say “hey, do you really go to the airports? And do you really have cars and drivers available on Sunday mornings at 6:00 am to go to Newark?” Both responses came shortly after, and both were an enthusiastic “Yes we do!”
You see where this is going, don’t you?
So I trusted. I loaded up my account with $100 credit for the advertised trip for two to EWR early the next morning. (Via only allows increments of $25, $50 or $100 without charging an extra fee.)
TRIP SEVEN – ABORT! ABORT! ABORT!
At 6:05 am Sunday morning we summoned Via from Park Avenue and 57th Street in Manhattan, and the app confirmed our pickup for a ride to EWR with a reasonable 10-minute wait. Our experience the previous two days had been that even in busy times, pickup was around 10 minutes, and only one time in heavy traffic it was twice that.
We waited. And waited. And then we got nervous. We watched the app as the icon for our assigned vehicle drove from the East side of Manhattan (where we were) to the West side of Manhattan (where we weren’t), and then travel far south of us, to the mid-30s. The app’s “wait time” had started at 10 minutes, and we tapped our toes as it went to 9 minutes, to 8, to 7, and then jumped back to 10 minutes and up to 11 minutes. By that point, 15 minutes already had passed.
To Via’s credit, after the initial 10-minute wait had expired, I received a text saying the driver was delayed, and that I could cancel and receive a full refund.
Well, the text was “nice,” but when you’re going to an airport, you don’t want to cancel and get a refund – you want a *!@#!*#@ ride to the airport! At 6:23 – seeing no hope that Via was going to get another vehicle to us anytime soon and having received no additional communication from Via, we made the decision to hail a cab and cancel Via.
The Disappointing Text From Via Announcing Delay in Ride to EWR. Photo Credit: Boyd Rogers
We never understood what happened, or why the vehicle bypassed us on the other side of the island, or why another vehicle was not dispatched to get us once “our” driver decided to head over to the West side. There is a human involved in this process – it’s a human who sends and responds to the text messages – and they knew I needed to get to the airport.
Bottom line, YOU DON’T MESS with someone’s trip to the airport! I was not pleased, especially after two separate reassurances that there would be no problem getting a car early on a Sunday to Newark.
Unfortunately, the cab cost us nearly twice as much as Via’s advertised price. Again, very disappointing since there are less expensive ways to get to the airport than a yellow cab. But when Via strung us along and then forced us to cancel with no hope of a real ride to Newark, we lost the chance to choose another way (such as SuperShuttle or another shared ride service).
I texted Via to let them know I was disappointed, and the unhelpful response was “we did have a ride available it’s just the wait time was longer than expected. I apologize but there is no way to 100% guarantee.”
Well ok – but that’s exactly what you did when I texted and emailed the day before and you said “Yes! We’re available 24/7!” Growl. Big growl.
I asked Via for a refund of the $100 credit given its service problem, and within a day or two the $100 had been fully refunded. So there’s that. A refund doesn’t equal a $54.95 ride to the airport at 6:00 am on a Sunday, but at least they didn’t steal my money in addition to stealing my ride. (Unless you count the difference between $54.95 and the $100 in cab fare…which I kinda do.)
SO WHAT’S THE NET-NET ON VIA?
I will happily use Via on future NYC trips to get around the City. The app is user-friendly, the service is fine, and the price is great. I give Via an A- for intra-Manhattan trips.
However, I will not give Via a second shot at making me miss a flight. Not gonna happen. Via gets a D- on rides to the airport, when RELIABILITY is what matters most. (Via doesn’t get an F because it refunded my money which I consider an acknowledgment of its screw-up.)