In the latest sign of growing interest in the flying taxi sector, United Airlines and air mobility startup Archer Aviation have announced upcoming hop-on hop-off service between downtown Chicago and O’Hare International Airport.
The service will offer a cost-competitive, low-noise, and sustainable alternative to ground transportation for people traveling to and from the airport, they said United and Archer in a statement.
Starting in 2025, Archer’s Midnight electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft will fly between downtown Vertiport Chicago and O’Hare in just 10 minutes, much faster than the hour or so it can take in rush hour traffic, or the 75 minutes it takes by train.
Once the initial route is established, secondary routes connecting surrounding communities will be added, opening up the flying taxi service to even more people.
Powered by six battery packs connected to electric motors, Archer’s Midnight aircraft seats one pilot and up to four passengers. Its 12 sets of propellers allow it to reach speeds of 150 mph and travel up to 100 miles in a single flight, though it’s optimized for trips between 20 and 50 miles.
“Both Archer and United are committed to decarbonizing air travel and leveraging innovative technologies to deliver on the promise of the electrification of the aviation industry,” said United executive Michael Leskinen. “Once up and running, we are excited to offer our customers a more sustainable, convenient and cost-effective mode of transportation during their daily commutes to the airport.”
Adam Goldstein, Archer’s founder and CEO, said his team was “thrilled” with the plan and “looked forward to working with state and city leaders to bring an innovative transportation solution to the city of Chicago and its surrounding communities.”
Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot is also delighted with the plan, saying, “This exciting new technology will further decarbonize our modes of transportation, taking us another step forward in our fight against climate change. I am pleased that Chicagoans are among the first in the nation to experience this innovative and convenient way to travel.”
California-based Archer announced last year that it will launch a similar service with United for hops between Newark Liberty International Airport and the Midtown Manhattan Heliport, eight miles away.
United revealed a plan two years ago to purchase 200 eVOTL Archer-built aircraft for deployment in the United States by 2026. United’s order was part of a $1 billion investment in Archer to help with the development of the aircraft, as the airline seeks to adopt cleaner and more efficient modes of transportation.
Archer is not the only company developing small eVTOL aircraft, with a host of competitors including Toyota-backed Joby Aviation also hoping to enter a sector that is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years.