Lyft, Uber at Odds With Orlando International Airport Over Nation’s Highest Passenger Pickup fee

by | Jul 28, 2017

 

If you’re flying into Orlando International Airport and plan on using Uber or Lyft to get to your final destination, be ready to fork out $5.80 just to get into the vehicle–that’s in addition to the regular fare

That’s how much the airport now charges the rideshare companies to pickup passengers at its facility.

Orlando International Airport

The rideshare companies aren’t too happy with the fee.

It’s the highest passenger pickup fee charged to rideshare companies by any airport in the U.S.

The rate issue at Orlando International comes less than a month after a new law took effect in Florida creating uniform statewide regulations for app-based ride-hailing services. The law was intended to stop local governments from adopting different rules that the rideshare companies say made it difficult to operate in Florida.

Orlando International says unlike airports that serve as hubs, 95 percent of its arriving passengers stay in the Orlando area for business or pleasure. Moving all of those people from the airport to the theme parks, hotels and cruise ships requires an extensive ground transportation system.

The airport says it has issued over a 1,000 permits to companies that operate 4,500 ground transportation vehicles which use the airports roads and limited parking facilities.

“Our challenge at GOAA (Greater Orlando Aviation Authority) is to provide fair access for staging, for pickup, for flow on the road system to all of those companies that are permitted,” said Carolyn Fennell, the airport’s public affairs director. “The fee that has been assessed is the same fee as other prearranged permitted vehicles. It is not a different fee for Uber and Lyft. It’s the same fee.”

But, the rideshare companies argue that’s the problem.

While GOAA has categorized the rideshare companies as “prearranged” transportation providers, Lyft and Uber insist they are “on demand” operators and should be charged the same rate as taxi cabs, which are considered on demand.

On demand vehicles pay a pickup fee of $3.30 at Orlando International. That’s $2.50 lower than the prearranged rate paid by the rideshare companies.

“Instead of embracing the benefits on demand options like Lyft bring to travelers, MCO has enacted the nation’s highest fee for ridesharing,” Lyft said in a statement released Friday. “Airport passengers have made it clear they want more ride choices, and we continue to urge the GOAA to do what’s right for consumers by expanding access to affordable, convenient rides.”

Airport officials say they are merely following the rules that have governed the operation of Orlando International for years. Those rules state that on demand vehicles are those that passengers can simply walk out the doors of the airport and into the doors of a waiting vehicle.

They say the rideshare companies are platform technologies that require passengers to use smartphone apps to “prearrange” a trip.

In a letter sent last month to the GOAA Board of Directors before members voted on the fee structure, the general manager of Uber Florida said the higher pickup fee charged to the rideshare companies would end up costing consumers.

“This fee will likely be passed onto riders, and can increase trip costs to your visitors and residents by 35-50%,” Kasra Moshkani wrote to board members.

Lyft and Uber claim the disparity in the GOAA ground transportation fee structure isn’t what state lawmakers intended when they passed the legislation creating uniform statewide regulations.

The law allows rideshare companies to expand operations at airports. But, the airports are allowed to set their own passenger pickup fees. The law requires airports to charge “reasonable fees consistent to the pickup fees charged to taxicab companies at that airport.”

While Orlando International insists it charges the higher rates because it must maintain an adequate ground transportation system, other major airports in Florida charge rideshare companies considerably less to pickup passengers.

Miami International charges Uber and Lyft a $2.00 pickup fee. West Palm Beach charges $2.50. Fort Lauderdale charges $3.00. Jacksonville charges $3.25.

Tampa International has set its pickup fee at $3.00, but there’s a proposal to increase the rate to $5.00 by 2019.

The rideshare companies believe the situation in Orlando is a matter of the taxi industry, which has been financially impacted by the rideshare services, trying to cling to its last remaining market share by limiting competition. They suggest the airport authority is playing a supporting role.

“There are some taxi companies, some of which have had a footprint in the Orlando market for a very long time that are being charged less than what the rideshare companies are being charged,” said Javi Correoso, a spokesman for Uber.  

Airport officials insist that’s simply not the case.

“I don’t think that’s true. It’s the same rate we’ve charged all of the other operators that are doing prearranged transportation,” said Tom Draper, senior director of airport operations. “I think that we’re trying to be fair to the airport community who has followed city rules and regulations and became permitted and were airport permitted and who have been partnered with us for a very long time. So, I think it’s only fair to them that we treat everybody equally and as fair as we can.”

Both Lyft and Uber say they will continue to work with GOAA officials in an effort to reach a resolution on what Orlando International charges the rideshare companies to pick up passengers.

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