Airport Pickups: Rules for Uber and Lyft Drivers

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If you’re a rideshare driver, you have many different kinds of encounters with passengers. There’s the office run, the after work hustle, the Friday night bar scene—and the airport. Each one has its own etiquette and peculiar protocols.

In this blog post, we’ll home in on airport pickup guidelines and dish some Uber/Lyft driver advice that will make your airport runs easier and even more profitable. Here’s how we’ll help you lay out your airport ground game:

The pros and cons of airport pickups

Most Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare drivers find a lot to love about airport rides. When you do them right, they can add substantial amounts to your earnings for the day. The distances involved in most airport runs really rack up the miles and your total take for the ride. That’s enough right there. Add to the mix that people who are in “travel mode” are usually less cranky or unruly than average short-hop passengers, and airport pickups gain even more sex appeal.

However, there is a dark side to the airport pickups. Ask any driver who’s been fined or banned from the airport for parking in the wrong spot or attempting to pick up passengers in a place that’s not authorized. While the airports in most towns are Uber driver hotspots, they are not always all that friendly to rideshare drivers.

Authorities at airports tend to be nicer to people who drive buses, vans, and yellow cabs. Call them traditional, or perhaps they’ve been given reasons for being nicer to these establishment-type conveyances from the pre-rideshare era. In any event, certain powers that be are at airports, from local police to county or state authorities, and cab dispatchers, particularly, who really seem to have it out for rideshare drivers!

They will yell at you, wave at you aggressively, speak to you dismissively, and maybe even give you a citation for not following the rules. It’s enough to make drivers feel as though they’re a pimple-covered kid trying to make a favorable impression on their sixteen-year-old date’s judgmental family.

The rules of airport pickups

Much like going on a date in high school with a person who’s got strict parents, picking up passengers at the airport means you’ve got to abide by some inflexible rules. There are cities where you might need a special tag or permit to legally pick up passengers at the airport. In many cases, there are designated rideshare lots, which are the only place rideshare drivers can pick up passengers. 

It’s also common to find that there’s a place for drivers to wait for calls, such as a cell phone lot that’s away from the terminal itself. You will have to wait in a queue of drivers set up by the Lyft or Uber app, as well, to get your airport pickup call.

Obviously, you need to know the rules of your local airport before you leave to look for your first pickup. Here is a list of the top 10 busiest airports in the US, with links to Uber driver airport rules for each one.

If you don’t see your city or airport listed here, check out this Uber page for a listing of all the airports in the world.

No matter where you’re picking up airport passengers, failure to follow local rules can result in stiff fines and penalties, including getting banned from taking airport rides in the future. Note that Uber (or any other rideshare company) is not about to pick up the tab for any fines you might get. They won’t fight to make sure you get reinstated to pick up passengers at the airport, either.

There are also quirky little nuances you don’t want to get caught on. For instance, at many airports, a police officer or other authority could ask to see your waybill, which is proof that you received a request for a ride from the airport. You should always be prepared to show your waybill. You can find it in the Info tab on the Uber app, and the Lyft app has a way for you to search for it.

Now that you’ve gone to the trouble to learn more about rules for airport pickups, you might wonder whether there is a lot of business at the airports these days. In other words, now that you’re ready to do some pickups, will there be enough potential for rideshare “dates?” Here’s some sound Lyft and Uber driver advice.

Are airport pickups back?

According to figures from the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), the numbers of passengers processed at TSA checkpoints have rebounded since the pandemic-driven drought of 2020 and are almost back to the same levels they were in 2019. On July 15, 2022, for example, 2,421,430 passengers went through checkpoints. This is a slight increase for the same date in 2021 (2,199,815) and a huge recovery from 2020 (720,378). The 2019 figure for July 15 was 2,776,960. 

Based on these numbers, it’s safe to say that yes, air travel is back in a big way! Of course, it’s taken on a different flavor than before. Business travel has changed forever, according to this piece on Forbes.com. No longer are executives making cross-country trips to one-hour meetings. Teleconferencing, via Zoom and other online services, has demonstrated to corporations that “face time” is no longer an absolute requirement.

For drivers that means that airport routines have shifted, too. Now most travel is for personal pleasure, family visits, and vacation. The hours and times when airports are busy have changed. You need to know more about what’s going on at the airport at different times, and use this information as the basis of your Lyft and Uber driver strategy for airport pickups. Let’s expand on that so you can get the best airport pickups possible.

Lyft and Uber driver airport strategy: pro tips and tricks

The first thing to find out when you plan to cash in on airport pickups is the best times to go and the best ways to get there. Rely on Gridwise to help you with all this and more. With real-time reports and data-driven features, Gridwise gives you

  • airport activity information, including hourly departures and arrivals
  • Where to Drive and When to Drive tools to optimize earnings
  • traffic reports
  • weather alerts
  • great deals and discounts for drivers

Next, you have to know about airport queues and waiting areas. When you go to a waiting area for rideshare drivers, you’ll be placed in a virtual queue for getting calls to pick up passengers. You won’t be paid for your waiting time, so you’ll need to make sure your wait won’t be overly long.

Airport pickups can be lucrative and even fun. However, you also have to make sure that they’re worth waiting for. Gridwise alerts you to peak times for picking up passengers, upcoming departures and arrivals, and more. With this information, you can make sure you don’t spend too much time waiting in the airport queue.

Speaking of apps, be mindful about which apps you’re signed on with if you do decide to join an airport queue. For example, if you’re an Uber driver, you’ll want to turn off the food delivery option in your app, so you won’t get calls for Uber Eats delivery while you’re waiting for an airport pickup. This goes also for any other kind of delivery app. Turn it off while you’re in the airport queue.

The world of airport pickups can be unpredictable at times. Take some of the unpredictability out of driving with Gridwise’s airport data.

Download the free Gridwise app today!

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