Update (1/2020): We just released a brand new report examining the recent ridehail changes at LAX – you can read more about it here.
Update (12/22/15): Lyft has now been approved for pick-ups at LAX! Click here to sign up and get $50 in free credit!!!
Update (7/20/15): Uber and Lyft have now been approved for drop-offs AND pick-ups but the authorities have indicated that pick-ups may not be available until September! So in the mean time, we still recommend that you take a hotel or rental car shuttle off airport grounds and request a ride there. Some shuttles say no Lyft/Uber pax but try the Free Airport C Lot Shuttle which drops you off at the C Lot Depot (next to the cell phone waiting area).
If you’re a new Uber passenger, you can get $20 off your first ride. And don’t forget about Lyft, Lyft tends to surge way less than Uber during peak times and they will also give you $20 off your first ride!
Over the last few months, we’ve seen a lot of progress when it comes to government acceptance of TNC’s like Lyft and Uber. But one area in which there hasn’t been much progress is at the airport. At stake is the costly $4-$5 tariff that airport authorities receive each time a taxi comes in and out. I have no idea who gets this money or why they get it but if I had to take a guess it’s probably someone who doesn’t deserve it.
As it stands now, you are allowed to drop off passengers at the airports with Uber or Lyft, but the government regulators have said no to pick-ups unless you have a TCP license. Despite government disapproval, Lyft’s public stance has always been that airport pick-ups are ok by them. So if you pick up a Lyft passenger from the airport you run the risk of being impounded by the cops (however minute this risk may be) but Lyft’s got your back!
Disruption: One Industry At A Time
In fact, the few drivers I’ve talked to who have had their cars impounded during airport stings say that Lyft has been great about covering all legal fees/expenses and providing said drivers with 50 free rides. Obviously you’re without your car for a few days but it’s nice to see Lyft standing behind their policies for once.
One of the reasons why I got so involved in rideshare in the first place was because of the disruptive nature of the whole thing. Rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber aren’t going to wait around for governments and regulators to figure things out. They are going to move forward and let the regulators catch up to them. We all know how in-efficient the government can be at times and I love that rideshare companies are forcing them to get out of their comfort zone and adapt to innovation.
Uber Airport Pick-Ups Still Aren’t Ok Or Are They?
As of today (5/16/15), passengers can NOT request a Lyft or Uber at LAX and many other airports across the country. You can always test whether your airport is ok for pick-ups by dropping your pin at the airport and seeing if you can request a ride.
On a recent trip though, I decided to test this theory (as a passenger). I flew back in to LAX around 8 pm on a Sunday night and when I checked my Uber app, sure enough there was an invisible geo-fence that showed ‘No UberX Available’ when I tried to drop a pin in or around the airport.
Related Article: What Are The Real Risks Of Doing Airport Runs?
I dropped the pin about a half mile away from the airport though and there was a swarm of UberX vehicles. I figured that most drivers were just hanging around waiting for people like me to drop their pin outside the airport. But the first two drivers I requested both told me they couldn’t pick up inside the airport and that I needed to take a shuttle to get picked up.
Risk For Drivers
As an Uber driver, it’s tempting to go pick up one of these requests but I don’t think the risk is worth the reward. You always want someone to have your back and in this case, both the government and Uber are telling you not to do airport pick-ups. I think the risk of getting busted is extremely low but the reward just isn’t worth it. I’ve always figured that Uber drivers would come inside and get passengers but I was glad to see the first couple didn’t.
If you’re intent on doing airport pick-ups, you might as well just sign up with Lyft and do them that way. At least in that scenario, if you get busted, Lyft has your back (Lyft is still offering new driver bonuses up to $250 btw).
Risk For Passengers
I actually performed this entire experiment from the passenger’s point of view to see what it would be like requesting an Uber ride from LAX. Most passengers probably aren’t even aware of the Uber pick-up rules so they are probably going to do what I did: move the pin outside the airport area and ask the driver to come pick them up in the terminal. Passengers will always prefer this option because of the convenience and for them there’s really no risk. If the driver gets impounded, that passenger will just find another driver.
I ended up just hopping on the first shuttle I saw and it dropped me off at one of the car rental places in under 5 minutes. I requested an Uber and they grabbed me within three minutes. I’ve requested Lyft before at airports and they always seem to take a while to come and get me. Taking a shuttle worked so well, I’ll probably use this method as a passenger in the future whether I take Lyft or Uber. There are always shuttles waiting and although you’re probably not technically allowed to hop on, who cares?!
(Editor’s Note: Let me clarify what I mean here. To me, the owners of big hotel chains and parking lots are basically like Uber and Lyft. I know they don’t really care about me so I don’t really care about them. If you do end up using a shuttle though, at least tip the driver a buck or two in order to even out your karma #RobinHood 🙂
Taking a ride as a passenger is still my number one tip for drivers so if you haven’t done that yet, what are you waiting for? Lyft is giving out $25 to new riders and Uber is giving out $30 to new passengers. Take a free ride and you’ll learn more than I could ever teach you!
Drivers, what do you think is the best way to pick up an Uber passenger at the airport? Have your experiences matched mine or do you think there is a better way to approach things?
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