I have the same conversation with rideshare drivers waiting at Pittsburgh International all the time.
Driver: “Man there are no pings coming in AT ALL… It’s going to take more than an hour to get a ride”
Me: “How many passengers are coming in?”
Driver: “I’m not sure but it’s 7:00 so there should be some planes coming in”
Me: “Ok, did you check the queue length before you drove up here”
Driver: “No… I was just hoping it is low”
Now, these drivers aren’t really wrong. Sometimes waiting at Pittsburgh International is just a waste of time, unless you just like hanging out at airport parking lots (we hear you can run over to the Sunco for a bathroom break).
If you have a strategy however, you can make a lot of money driving airports with rideshare services.
You Need an Airport Strategy
Yes, it can be frustrating to sit in the TNC lot surrounded by other drivers doing the exact same thing. But creating an airport strategy gives you an advantage they don’t have.
The first step is thinking ahead. You need to understand how the airport works, how to navigate it correctly, and probably most importantly, when to arrive. I’m going to cover all those topics in more detail, but there’s something else you might not have thought of.
If you’re going to be driving to Pittsburgh International anyway, why not try to pick up someone headed that way? Hang around downtown hotels a few hours before peak hours and you might luck out and find passengers who need a ride to Pittsburgh International. If you want to really increase your chances of getting a ride to the airport then set your desired destination to airport. Nothing’s better than making money on your way to make even more.
You also need to decide in advance how long you are willing to wait – and what time it currently is. It’s not too bad to wait an extra 30 minutes if more flights are landing soon but you don’t want to realize you’ve wasted hours because there aren’t any more flights coming in until morning!
Having a solid airport strategy is the key to making money at PIT, so let’s learn more about how things work there.
How PIT Works
Uber, Lyft, and other TNC’s specially designate airports with a geofence that tightly defines the airport area. As a driver, if you have an app on in those areas, you’ll be placed in a queue that acts as a virtual driver line, kind of like traditional taxi lines.
As you wait in the queue, you’ll cycle through the line (sometimes quickly but it can be painfully slow, I know) and finally be pinged by a rider.
PIT has a designated pickup area (more on that below) which is the only place TNC drivers are allowed to wait. You’ll also want to always clearly display your TNC’s sign in your passenger window.
How to Navigate Pittsburgh International Airport
Some people don’t like going to PIT because it can be a little tricky to navigate. Pittsburgh International, like most airports, has a ton of rules and regulations.
Where to Wait
PIT has pretty strict regulations for TNC drivers. We are all required to wait in the TNC lot located in extended parking. To get there, take a left turn off the Return to Terminal Roadway (behind the Sunoco) down to the sloped area.
Some people like to push the limits a bit, but to avoid getting booted from the queue it’s best to stay put here.
I know, you might be tempted to snag a prime spot in the cell lot if you see it. But if you do, you won’t actually be in the queue. You could find yourself waiting and waiting and waiting with nothing ever happening. So stick to the cell lot and save yourself some time – and some gas.
Where to Pick Up
PIT has a designated pick up zone for TNC drivers. Once you’ve been pinged, you’ll need to go to the landside terminal and use the commercial curb. It’s easy to find. Follow the yellow sign that says “Deliveries, Rental Car Return” and then “Commercial Curb Arrivals”.
Your passengers should be waiting outside Baggage Claim Door #4. Make sure to pull up to the furthest space available. And remember that you can’t pick up from the Public Curb.
When to Go to the Airport
The biggest problem TNC drivers seem to have is understanding when to go the airport. You show up too early and you’re waiting for hours. You show up too late and you’ve missed all the fares – and the surge fees.
Finding the right time to go to the airport isn’t as tricky as you might think.
There are patterns in flight traffic that are easily identifiable, if you know what you’re looking for. You’ll usually see an influx of business passengers on Monday and Tuesday mornings, flying in for meetings or work trips. Those same passengers leave on Thursday afternoons or Friday mornings.
Maybe driving is a second job for you and you aren’t available during those times. That’s ok, there are other tricks for you too!
Travel picks up around holidays, sports games, and other big events like:
- Christmas and Thanksgiving
- Spring Break
- Memorial Day, Labor Day, and 4th of July
- Steelers or Penguins games
Plan to spend some time near the airport around these events to make the most of the additional passengers. You can use the free Gridwise App to help you know when the flights are coming in. Arriving to the cell lot around 10-15 minutes before the peak is the perfect way to snag a great spot in the queue and hopefully get pinged by a passenger needing a long ride.
Can’t Miss Tips
If you’ve been paying for parking at PIT, STOP!
There’s no need to pay or to leave and circle the airport every hour. Simply sign the lot ticket and tell the attendant at the lot exit that you’re a TNC driver and they’ll waive the fee. You may need to show proof, but usually having your company’s placard displayed is enough.
Consider driving for more than one TNC
The queues can get long, especially during peak hours. Driving for more than one TNC is a good way to open yourself up to more requests. While you might be 33rd in line at Uber, you could be 15th with Lyft.
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.
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 PIT and actually earn money instead of snacking on candy from Sunoco. I’m not the only one who does that, right?