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Uber at the Airport: The Final Frontier for Ride-Sharing

More than its $50 billion valuation, its fleet of nearly 200,000 active drivers, or its ability to incite riots in France, the best indication of how large a force Uber has become is the fact that the company has joined a select group of corporate entities whose names can be used as a verb, a group including Google, Xerox, Taser, and of course Rocketrip.

Despite Uber’s ubiquity, there are still places where you might have trouble hailing one of its cars, such as the airport. Uber drivers are barred from picking up passengers at most major U.S. airports. Even at airports where ride-hailing apps are allowed to operate, they face an extensive and often confusing set of restrictions.

Of course, Uber isn’t known to let regulatory hurdles stand in its way. Just this week officials in New York City bowed under intense lobbying and dropped plans for new rules that would have slowed the company’s expansion. But the airport embargos have proven harder to break. Uber and Lyft drivers are more conspicuous at curbside pickups than on street corners, and at the airport there are no shortage of police officers on the lookout for rulebreakers (not to mention taxi drivers looking to protect their turf). By some indications, use of ride-sharing apps has already eclipsed taxis for business travelers. How long before Uber and Lyft conquer airports too?

Ridesharing vs. Taxis Business Travelers


Source: Certify Sharing Economy Report, Q2 2015

Not long, it would seem. LAX is the latest – and the largest – airport to announce it would ease restrictions on Uber and Lyft. The new rules will allow curbside pickups by non-liveried drivers from UberX and Lyft, and go into effect in September. Until then, passengers looking for a ride from LAX will find themselves in the familiar, if frustrating, position of having to settle for taxis or black cars, which can cost 40% more than UberX on rides from the airport to downtown L.A.

Ray Mundy, executive director of the Airport Ground Transportation Association, recently told The New York Times that he expects UberX to be widely permitted at airports nationwide within two years. For now, however, ride-sharing apps exist in a state of limbo.

Can I Uber or Lyft After I Land?

The Los Angeles Times put together this chart that shows which airports allow ride-sharing apps to operate. Check out the full article for more details of each airport’s rules (there are a lot).

Ride Sharing at U.S. and International Airports


Source: Los Angeles Times, July 2015

Whatever your opinion of Uber, Lyft, and the on-demand economy, there’s no denying that people have come to expect these services to be availble everywhere. To mix transportation metaphors, when it comes using Uber at the airport, the train has already left the station.

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