Uber and Lyft Driver Instructions for San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

Uber and Lyft Driver Instructions for San Francisco International Airport (SFO)


San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is one of the busiest airports in the US with over 55 million annual passengers. This is why SFO is one of the best places to drive as a rideshare driver if you drive smart.

That means understanding what you need to do before you get to the airport, understanding how you can navigate the airport, and building a solid airport strategy.

Well that’s where we come in.

We’ve put together this driver instructional guide to help Uber and Lyft drivers in the Bay Area be successful when driving SFO.

See the topics covered in this blog post below:

  1. What do I need to know or do before arriving at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)?
  2. Do you need any permits to drive at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)?
  3. Where is the rideshare waiting area at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)?
  4. What are the passenger pick up rules at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)?
  5. What are the passenger drop off rules at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)?
  6. When is the best time to drive at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)?
  7. What is the best San Francisco International Airport (SFO) driving strategy?

Let’s dig in!

What do I need to do before I arrive at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and enter the airport queue?

Step #1: Get your trade dress

Listen, if you don’t have your trade dress by now then you need to stop everything and go get it! Every rideshare driver in the Bay Area needs a sticker or decal from their rideshare company on their car at all times. This goes double for the airport as it’s easy to pick up a hefty fine by picking up passengers without your trade dress.

So before you do anything you must make sure that you have your Uber or Lyft decals. You can easily pick these up from one of the rideshare companies.

To get your Uber Decal you can visit the local Greenlight Hub.

To get your Lyft Decal you can place an order on your dashboard. You can also print a temporary decal if you lose yours or are waiting for one to come in the mail.

Step #2: Obtain all Permit and Placards

In order to drive at SFO, you’ll need to have a yellow SFO placard. To obtain your placard, you’ll need to complete a vehicle expectation, and then another every year or every 50,000 miles. You can visit the local hub of your TNC in order to receive your inspection and further instructions on obtaining your placard.

Once you have your placard, you will need to display the card underneath your Uber/Lyft trade dress and verify it within Uber/Lyft’s app.

Step #3: Know the airport regulations

There are a few basic rules and regulations that every rideshare driver must abide by when at the airport.

  1. Always keep one of your rideshare apps on at all times while on airport property
  2. Airport personnel can and will ask you to provide a Waybill. Don’t stress, just check your Uber or Lyft app for this
  3. Don’t wait in any other areas except the designated staging areas (see the map below). Not only is this against regulations but you also won’t be added to the queue. So if there is no room in the staging lot you must leave.

Where is the Uber/Lyft waiting area at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)?

Uber and Lyft have a few staging areas for rideshare drivers, but the main lot is located off of S McDonnell Rd. See the areas in blue below for instructions to the rideshare waiting areas.

Once you get the staging lot you’ll automatically be entered into the airport queue. It will be up to you to find a spot to wait.

How should Uber and Lyft drivers pick up passengers at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)?

Pickups at SFO are not as straight forward as many others.

Pickups are generally only allowed on level 2 in all domestic terminals. However, during peak hours in the morning and evening, you may be dispatched to the upper level of the domestic parking garage for pickup requests from Terminals 1, 2, and 3.

Pickups in the international terminal are all on the departures level of the International, Terminal at the designated pickup locations along the outer curb (Zones 14-17).

How should Uber and Lyft drivers drop off passengers at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)?

For the domestic Terminals, you can drop your passengers off at their requested carrier on the arrivals or departures level.

Passengers traveling internationally can be dropped off at the international terminal at the center island between Zones 14 and 17.

When is the best time to drive at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)?

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, SFO is a hugely popular airport that has a ultra high demand for passengers at every time of the year. However, every rideshare driver knows how much rider demand is at this airport.

This means that you’ll almost always find a ton of drivers waiting in the airport queue.

So the best time to drive at SFO is when the ratio of passengers to drivers is at its absolute highest.

To understand when this ratio is highest, check your Gridwise app and compare queue times to passenger arrival times.

If there are a relatively low amount of drivers in the queue with a peak in airport arrivals coming, then it would be a good idea to jump in the airport queue!

Now, there will be certain times of the year that the airport is busier like holidays and before big sporting events. But remember, you’re not the only one with the great idea to hang in the airport queue around Christmas. So you still need to make sure your Gridwise app to understand driver supply and rider demand.

What airport strategy to use at San Francisco International Airport (SFO)?

Pick up a passenger on the way to the airport!

Don’t just be a driver that picks up passengers at the airport! Also pick them up when they are heading to the airport. Gridwise does a great job of telling you when there is also a peak in airport departures, so you can hang around near hotels at that time to maximize your chances of an airport ride.

Do not cancel on a passenger after you’ve accepted a fare

If you do, you will be bumped to the bottom of the queue and your wait starts all over again. The good news is that if it’s a short ride, some companies let you jump back in line after you’ve dropped that passenger off.

Look out for your short ride bump

After waiting for some time at the airport for a passenger, there is nothing worse than getting a ride that’s 5-minutes away. That’s why the major rideshare companies have some form of a short ride bump that allows you to jump back into the front of the line if you get a very short ride request.

To take advantage of a short ride bump, simply complete your short ride and look out for a text message or in-app message that gives you the option to head back to the TNC lot for a preferred spot in the queue.

Always be prepared

You never know when law enforcement will show up, so always keep your driver’s license, insurance card, and registration handy. And don’t forget to have your placard displayed.

Now you should be ready to make that drive to SFO and actually earn money instead of snacking on candy from Sunoco. I’m not the only one who does that, right?


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