Uber and Lyft say they’re ending service at Phoenix’s airport

Phoenix Airport Tower

Uber and Lyft stated they will make good on their threats to stop taking consumers to and from the airport in the country’s fifth-largest city, creating confusion for 2020 for travelers used to opening a phone app to catch a ride after Phoenix decided to increase fees on ride-hailing companies.

Both companies confirmed on Wednesday that they would stop curbside service at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport following the City Council’s vote to increase fees for pickups and drop-offs at one of the largest commercial U.S. airports, serving some 44 million passengers per year. Neither company provided an exact date for stopping airport operations.

“This will definitely impact what I earn in a day,” stated Uber driver David Kueneman, 34, who generally makes at least one trip to the airport daily.

Ride-hailing in recent years has become one of the most popular ways for the people around the United States to get to the airport and back home after their flights. Sky Harbor was one of the few remaining airports where Uber and Lyft still had curbside service instead of the nearby pickup lots now used in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston.

Increased use of Uber and Lyft in recent times has even pushed out once popular services such as the vans operated for decades by SuperShuttle, which is halting service December 31 at Sky Harbor and other airports throughout the U.S. and Latin America, Canada, Europe, and Asia.

Standard taxis will keep offering curbside service.

Phoenix airport officials state ride-hailing operators accounted for only 9.3% of the commercial business when they started at Sky Harbor in June 2016 but now account for 70 percent of the commercial traffic.

Uber stated that it would stop its service at the Phoenix airport sometime in January 2020.

“Our riders and drivers should not be treated as a piggybank to fill the airport’s budget holes,” the statement noted. “On behalf of the riders and drivers who depend on Uber, we cannot accept a partnership that unfairly burdens our shared passengers.”

Lyft said it was halting operations at Sky Harbor “ahead of the fee implementation in order to avoid the unfair penalization of our drivers.”

Sky Harbor has stated it will not directly charge the increases to drivers or passengers, however, Uber and Lyft have signaled the fees could be passed on to them.

Lyft spokesman Lauren Alexander didn’t provide specifics but stated that her company has ceased service before as well, “when we believe rules, regulations or fees create unavoidable threat to the health of our business.”

Phoenix is increasing the fee of $2.66 per curbside pickup at Sky Harbor to $4 in February. 1. It also will create a drop-off fee of $4. The fees to the ride-hailing companies would be boosted to $4.25 in 2021, $4.50 in 2022, $4.75 in 2023 and $5 in 2024.

A city aviation commission had recommended the fee boost after a study revealed airports in many other cities charge ride-hailing companies more to drop off and pick up passengers.

Republican state Rep. Nancy Barto submitted a complaint with the Arizona attorney general’s office Thursday accusing the increase violates a voter-approved measure blocking state and local government from increasing taxes on services. City officials state their fee increase is permitted.

Phoenix could lose its share of state revenue, a third of its general fund budget if the fee increase is found to be unlawful.

In voting for the measure, Mayor Kate Gallego stated Phoenix was justified in increasing the fees in order to fund airport infrastructure.

The measure also consisted of a second option for ride-sharing, a $2.80 fee for the firms to pick up or drop off at the Phoenix light rail’s 44th Street station, which links to an airport train. The companies have not stated if they will continue to provide pickups and drop-offs there.

It’s not the first time Uber has halted service over increased fees or extra regulations. It had also stopped trips to and from Ontario International Airport in September, a few months after the airport east of Los Angeles increased fees from $3 to $4.

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