Uber is branching out into New York City helicopter travel, helping passengers avoid gridlocked roads by offering eight-minute rides from a lower Manhattan heliport to New York JFK, starting this month.

Booked via the ride-sharing firm's app up to five days in advance, Uber Copter is limited to the top two tiers of Uber’s loyalty programme, platinum and diamond, and will cost upwards of USD200 one-way depending on demand pricing, according to the Wall Street Journal. The two-pilot helicopters are owned and operated by New York Newark-based HeliFlite, whose fleet consists of S-76, AW139, Bell Helicopter, and EC-155 helicopters.

An optional add-on to the service, which is available on weekdays during the afternoon rush hour, arranges for a car to escort you between your location and the heliport.

Uber Copter seats up to five people, who are permitted to take on board only a carry-on bag and a personal bag. Ultimately, Uber envisions replacing the helicopters with autonomous electric flying cars, which it insists will make transportation faster and safer.