UPDATED 11:27 a.m., Dec. 11, 2017
Shortly after this story was published, an Uber spokesperson told VICE News that the company moved to cancel surge pricing “within minutes” of seeing news of the explosion on Twitter. Additionally, the spokesperson said, Uber will be offering refunds to any customers who paid the surge prices and will allow the drivers to keep their surge earnings.
Surge pricing strikes again.
The ride-hailing apps have done it before — something bad happens, like a terrorist attack or natural disaster, and disrupts mass transit service, and they jack up their fees because of all the increased demand. It happened on Monday morning in midtown Manhattan, after a pipe bomb exploded in a subway passageway near the Port Authority Bus Terminal during rush hour.
Multiple people on Twitter reported surge pricing on Uber and Lyft shortly after the bombing, while the Metropolitan Transportation Authority shut down the subway in the area — causing significant delays around the whole NYC transit system.
Usually, Uber and Lyft apologize and occasionally offer refunds when they have turned on surge pricing during a temporary transit crisis. In Uber’s case, the company has apologized for incidents in London and Sydney, though both ride-hailing apps waived fees and suspended surge pricing in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting in October.
This wasn’t always the case: Uber co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick was known as a pugnacious defender of surge pricing, who was reluctant to back down in spite of overwhelming disapproval.
Uber and Lyft did not immediately respond to requests for comment.