Uber and Lyft will pick up passengers at the airport starting Saturday, ending a three-year battle by the ride-sharing services to gain access to millions of tourists and residents who land in Orlando.
A new state law, which abolished local rules that restricted ride-sharing services, goes into effect July 1. Previously, ride sharing companies could only drop off passengers at Orlando International Airport (OIA).
Kim Gardner, vice president of First Data, said she is looking forward to the expansion.
“It’s fabulous because there should be competition for rides at the airport, just like any other business,” said Gardner, who travels throughout the United State on business 8-10 days a month. “It’s not right to pay double or almost triple for a ride home from the airport.”
Gardner found a creative way to get around the airport regulations. She said she took a taxi a mile to a local restaurant or hotel, then turned on her Uber app to catch a ride to her Winter Park home. She said an Uber ride home is $20 compared to $60 for a taxi, including tip.
The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA), which runs the airport, approved a fee June 21st of $5.80 per pickup for ride-sharing services. The charge includes $3.30 for access to the airport and $2.50 for time spent waiting for passengers. Taxis, which are considered on-demand services, pay $3.30 for each pickup.
Uber and Lyft are not happy about the fees and claim they favor taxis.
Javi Correoso, Uber’s spokesman in Florida, complained that the fee is “one of the highest in the country” and said Uber continues to work with OIA officials to get it lowered.
“Transportation options at the Orlando airport have been limited to entrenched interests that have operated there for many years,” said “Now people will have a choice.”
Nationally, airport pickup fees range from $2 to $4. The fees are much lower at other Florida airports. The fee is $2 in Miami, $2.50 in West Palm Beach and $3 in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa.
“We are looking forward to offering our services to Orlando passengers, but urge the GOAA to revisit this fee structure and instead work toward expanding consumer choice for all MCO travelers,” said Chelsea Harrison, Lyft’s spokesperson.
Mears Transportation has held contracts for taxi and shuttle services with the airport since it opened. Roger Chapin, vice president of public affairs for Mears Transportation, said it was ironic that the ride sharing companies have spent the last three years claiming they were not taxis but now want the taxi rate.
Chapin said the ride-sharing services will impact Mears business but it will not change its prices.
“We simply cannot compete with the prices they’re charging,” Chapin said. “Uber lost more than $2 billion last year. At some point, they’re going to have to raise prices or find a different way to monetize their service.”
Chapin said Mears offers passengers safety with cameras in all its cars and full commercial insurance coverage.
The new Florida law now requires ride-sharing companies carry $100,000 of insurance for bodily injury or death and $25,000 for property damage while a driver is logged onto their app, but hasn’t secured a passenger. If a passenger is in the car, drivers must have $1 million in coverage.
The addition of the ride-sharing pickups may initially cause congestion at OIA. Both ride-share cars and taxicabs will pick up passengers on the second levels of terminals A and B, the same quarter-mile used by privately-owned cars.
Airport officials said they may eventually move the ride-share cars to the third level, which is currently under construction to expand lobby space.
The ride-share cars must display a company logo and wait for pickups in a staging area near the B-52 memorial park.