Arriving at the airport: one part excitement, one part did-I-remember-everything jitters, and five parts how-do-I-get-to-my-final-destination hassle (if you travel frequently, we accept your argument for an exponentially higher “hassle” percentage). Airport transportation always feels like choosing between the lesser of evils (the lesser of which is not always apparent). Waiting for your ride, waiting in the taxi line, looking for a shuttle—how to choose between such terrible options? But from the moment Uber and its ilk hit the scene, people were anxiously awaiting the moment they could Uber to the airport—a way home at the tip of our fingers, personalized, cash-free, and almost always less expensive than traditional cabs (and no waiting for your flakey roommate). Though rideshare services at the airport seems almost like kismet, they haven’t slid into the territory easily at all. In fact, airports seem to be putting up some of the biggest resistance to Uber et al. out there. So we tried to share one of our ridesharing hacks: how to Uber at the Airport.
But First: Why All the Red Tape?
Taxi companies have the airport market cornered. But Uber, not one to be deterred by such small-time hassles as laws and regulations, has been working tirelessly to get their foot in the proverbial airport door.
But airports present a particular set of difficulties for ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft. First, there is the matter of insurance. As the New York Times reports, “Since many airports own the roads that lead to and from the terminals, they are legally responsible for accidents that might occur. The more taxis and Uber cars, the more they pay for insurance.”
The second big reason many airports are (or were) so anti-Uber is money: in particular, fees. You see, airports charge taxi companies a fee for the privilege of picking up passengers. The NYT says those fees are usually between $1.50 and $4 per ride, which really adds up—at Hartsfield-Jackson, Atlanta’s international airport, there were more than 784,000 taxi trips last year alone. For those keeping score at home, that means the airport received between $1,176,000 and $3,136,000 dollars just in taxi fees. Look at these numbers and you can begin to see why airports are so hot to work out similar fees for ride-share companies before they’ll allow them on their turf.
A final reason many airports are resisting ride sharing is logistical: many airports have designated taxi lanes, and lines, and signage, but the introduction of another transportation service would require reordering the existing layout. The NYT lists as possible options separate parking lots for Uber etc., along with curb space re-ordering. Nashville International, for their part, is a ride-share early adopter, with a designated ride-hailing lane already in place.
From Which Airports Can a Gal (or a Guy) Get an Uber Home?
Some airports have loosened rideshare bans, while others have out-right embraced the trend—many just in time for the high-traffic holiday season. Many airports allow Uber’s more expensive options—like UberBLACK, UberLUX and Uber SUV—as these comply with their regulations. But the real consumer demand is for UberX. As of November, 2015, the following airports allow UberX (add to our non-exhaustive list in the comments!) and many also allow Lyft, Sidecar, and others:
- Austin-Bergstrom International airport, in Austin, TX
- Bob Hope airport, in Burbank, CA
- Dallas Fort Worth airport, in Dallas, TX
- Jackson Municipal airport, in Jackson, MS
- John F Kennedy (JFK) airport in New York City
- John Wayne airport, in Orange County, CA
- KCI Airport, in Kansas City, MO
- LaGuardia airport, in New York City
- Monterey airport, in Monterey, CA
- Oakland airport, in Oakland, CA
- O’Hare and Midway, in Chicago, IL
- Portland International Airport (PDX), in Portland, OR
- Reagan National and Dulles International airports, in the DC area
- Sacramento International airport, in Sacramento CA
- Salt Lake City International airport, in Salt Lake City, UT
- Sarasota-Bradenton International airport, in Sarasota, FL
And these airports seem to be considering UberX and other rideshare options:
- Charleston International airport, in Charleston SC
- Harrisburg International, in Pennsylvania
- Las Vegas airport, in Las Vegas NV
- Los Angeles International airport (LAX), in Los Angeles CA
- Sea-Tac Airport, in Seattle
- Sky Harbor, in Phoenix, AZ
Ridesharing Hacks: Surviving the Airport
Uber drop-offs are obviously nearly impossible to regulate, and are therefore allowed (note that in some places Uber sets an airport flat-rate, so do a fare estimate ahead of time to avoid surprises). But while some airports have adjusted to what feels like the inevitable rideshare assimilation, many have not. At airports not yet on the ride-share train, there are still simple ways around the ban, and many people are using these hacks to convince their local airport to allow ride sharing companies airport access:
I took the Hertz bus out of LAX so I could take Uber Pool. This is silly, @flyLAXairport.
— Ryan Hoover (@rrhoover) November 18, 2015
Some serious UberX aficionados have been known to take an approved UberBLACK to a gas station just outside airport bounds and then hail the less expensive UberX.
Another way around UberX airport bans is to move the dropped pin to just outside the airport bounds. Then, when your ride is scheduled, call the driver and let them know you’re actually at the airport. Some might refuse the pickup, but it’s free to cancel the ride in the first five minutes anyway.
Some rideshare drivers encourage stealth pick-up behavior at unapproved airports, like sitting in the front seat and loading your own luggage, to avoid catching the attention of airport security. But don’t worry about your Uber driver: if they get ticketed or towed from an airport, Uber itself pays tickets and towing fees.