Uber will not get back on the road in Abu Dhabi until the 'prohibitive" cost of operating in the UAE capital is overhauled, the ride hailing company has revealed.
Uber suspended its services in the capital in August 2016, saying the move was only temporary at the time.
But it has still not resumed its operations nearly two years on - and says a return isn't on the agenda unless it is able to reduce fare charges for customers.
Local rival Careem, which halted operations at the same time, has since returned to the market, and launched a new, cheaper “economy car” service last month in the capital. Careem’s economy service is available for hire for a minimum charge of Dh19 – compared to the base charge of Dh12 for a standard taxi.
In the press conference to announce the launch of Careem’s cheaper cars, Mohammed Al Qamzi, general manager of Integrated Transport Centre, confirmed that it was also in talks with Uber over a return to the emirate.
Uber’s Middle East chief says the company is "very keen" to get back on the road in Abu Dhabi, but insists it is difficult to run an affordable service in the city.
“We have been in conversations ever since we paused our operations over there. The reality is that we are very keen in launching Abu Dhabi again. It is a very interesting market,” said Anthony El Khoury, Uber’s general manager for the Middle East region.
“We were there and we know for a fact that there is a lot of potential. The reality is that we still feel that the current regulation, specifically on pricing, makes it a bit difficult for us to have an affordable and convenient service in Abu Dhabi.”
He said current regulations dictate that ride sharing or limo-style companies like Uber must charge 30 per cent more than standard taxis. And this makes it difficult for the company to run an affordable and convenient service, he added.
Mr El Khoury said Uber will continue to talk to the government about its return but it is difficult to say if and when it will ever resume operations in Abu Dhabi.
“What I can tell you is we have a philosophy of affordable transportation for everyone. Today’s regulation is prohibitive,” he said.
“This is why we are going to continue the discussions. Now depending on how the discussions go we might enter the market, but we really want to stand hard on this philosophy,” added Mr El Khoury.
Business is doing well in Dubai, which is one of the company’s largest markets in the region, he said.
“You have a lot of tourists coming in, a lot of people who know Uber and who use Uber,” said Mr El Khoury.
The company has expanded its services in Dubai, launching UberX, which is 30 per cent cheaper than its standard cars.
“UberX is a product that a lot of discussion with the RTA of Dubai. We have seen an amazing success there. This is what we want to push towards,” added Mr El Khoury.
The Department of Transport has been contacted for a comment.