Uber

An Uber ride with a Brussels Airport worker

The Uber driver taking us from Brussels central train station to our hotel was on duty  Wednesday only because he couldn’t go to his regular job out at the airport.  President Donald Trump was scheduled to land in Air Force one at Brussels Airport on his way to attend a NATO summit meeting and the driver said his airline had canceled flights for the day.

I asked him if he had been working at the airport the day of the terrorist attacks last March.  He had. And had lost a friend who was working the ticket counters that day. It took him six months and a lot of therapy to get back to work, he said, and he knows many passengers are still choosing not to travel to through Brussels.

I didn’t ask him if the Manchester terrorist attack was giving him new nightmares, but as we drove through town, past clusters of police and armored vehicles in the streets in advance of Trump’s visit, he said he couldn’t wait till this visit was over.

 

Travel Tidbits: Use Thanks Again points for an Uber ride

Temporary sign at PIT Airport marks where Uber pick-ups are allowed.

Ride-hailing service Uber is making inroads at an increasing number of airports and, as you head off for that end-of-summer vacation, keep in mind that you can now use those Thanks Again points you’ve been earning for purchases you’ve made while stuck at the airport to pay for part of an Uber ride.

Earlier this month Thanks Again announced that program participants can redeem 500 Thanks Again points for a $10 Uber promotional code good toward rides – whether at the airport or in town.

What’s Thankgs Again? It’s a free program that lets you accumulate points for purchases (restaurants, shopping, services and, in many cases, parking) you make a more than 100 airports around the country. That’s on top of points/miles you might get for using your credit card in the first place.

Thanks Again program participants can redeem their points for a array of hotel and airline miles and even towards the  TSA Precheck registration fee.

You can download the Thanks Again App and earn 100 Thanks Again Points for enrolling on the Apple App Store or Google Play.  And if you haven’t yet signed up for Uber, use the “ThanksAgain2016” promotional code to get $15 off your first ride.

More ways to leave airports

DENVER AIRPORT WESTIN HOTEL with TRAINS

Photo courtesy Denver International Airport

Good news from Las Vegas, Chicago and Denver for travelers seeking more options for getting to and from the airports.

On Monday, San Francisco-based Lyft became the first ride-hailing service authorized to provide service to and from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

To mark the milestone, Lyft’s website has a code (FLYLAS) good for $5 off two rides to or from the airport, valid for the next six months.

Ride-sharing heavyweight, Uber, has not yet cleared the airport’s permitting process, But the company says it is working on that.

Meanwhile, ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft and Sidecar will be able to legally offer pick-ups at O’Hare and Midway airports beginning in 2016. (The deal with the city also allows the companies to provide service at the McCormick Place convention center and Navy Pier.)

And April 22, 2016 has been set at the opening day for the new commuter rail line that will run between Denver International Airport and Denver’s downtown Union Station.

The Regional Transportation District’s new A Line will make the 23-mile run in an estimated 37 minutes.

Tickets will cost $9 one-way, but for that same $9, travelers will be able to purchase an Airport Day Pass that will allow unlimited bus and rail rides, including to and from the airport, for one day.

Airports making deals with Uber, Lyft etc.

My “At the Airport” column on USA TODAY this month is an update on what’s happening with ride-hailing services at airports. Here’s the story:

Temporary sign at PIT Airport marks where Uber pick-ups are allowed.

After detours and disputes, many major airports are successfully hammering out deals with ride-hailing services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar.

That means more and, often, less expensive ground transportation options for many travelers.

Earlier this month, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority announced that, beginning Nov. 1, Uber and Lyft would be added to the list of authorized ground transportation options at Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington Airports.

At the end of August, the Los Angeles City County approved a permit process that will allow Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), as the ride-hailing services are also called, to pick up passengers at Los Angeles International Airport.

Lyft, which already has operating agreements with 16 airports, is currently going through the permitting process at LAX, said airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles, but while representatives from Wingz, Opoli and Uber say they intend to apply, as of last week, no other TNC, had submitted an application for a permit.

“In the meantime, TNCs may continue to drop off passengers at LAX, but they cannot pick up customers,” Castles said.

In July, San Diego International Airport signed permits allowing Uber and Lyft to join ride-hailing service Opoli in offering pickup and drop-off service at the airport and, at the beginning of September, UberX began operating legally at Sacramento International Airport.

Airports in Seattle and other cities are working on and/and or close to announcing agreements with ride-hailing services as well, and if Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s new budget plan moves forward, ride-hailing services will soon be officially allowed to pick up and drop off passengers at O’Hare and Midway Airports.

“It wasn’t a question of when services such as Uber and Lyft were coming to airports or how to keep them out,” said Kevin Burke, President and CEO of ACI-NA, the organization which represents most commercial airports in North America, “The big challenge for airport directors was how to regulate the services,” given the various governing models in place at the nation’s airports, he said.

To help move things along, ACI-NA put together a task force that examines the services and offers suggestions to airports on how to negotiate a deal that works for everyone.

“Airports want to provide options for passengers that are coming in and leaving, and if Uber and Lyft are viable options, then we should be providing them,” Burke said. At the same time, though, airports need to make sure passengers are safe and airports need to protect themselves as legal entities, he said.

In 2013, airports in the U.S. and Canada earned $3.1 billion from parking and ground transportation fees, so airports need to make sure the agreements they work out with ride-hailing services protect that revenue as well.

“As we move along we’ll see more and more airports solving these challenges,” Burke said,” but each airport has a different story and there will likely be some snags.”

One of those snags is in Florida, where last week Broward County Commissioners spent more than six hours debating regulations that would have allowed Uber to operate at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

“They provide a very good service, our customers want to see that service, and we want to work with them to get that service here,” said Kent George, director of the Broward County Aviation Department, but negotiations between Uber and the county have “been difficult.”

George said while the airport looks at ground transportation services more as a customer service than a revenue center, he’s confident Uber won’t walk away from the large South Florida market, which includes 26 million annual passengers at Fort Lauderdale, 40 million passengers Miami International Airport and more than 7 million annual passengers at Palm Beach International Airport.

“The airports are working together and I believe we will eventually get to ‘yes’,” George said.

Airports adding – and rejecting – ride-shares

Flying car

Airports across the country are grappling with how to deal with taxi-alternative services and Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) such as Uber and each week a few deals are being made.

This week San Francisco International Airport (SFO) announced an agreement with Wingz, a company that connects citizen drivers with people needing airport rides. The pilot permit allows drivers to pick up and drop off at the airport, starting within the next 30 days.

Last month, SFO announced agreements with Sidecar, Lyft and UberX, awarding each a permit for a 90-day pilot program to allow the airport to evaluate the businesses.

This week, the Houston City Council approved rules granting Uber and other app-based companies access to the Houston airports, but in Cincinnati, signs are now posted at CVG airport alerting travlers that only permitted ride-share companies have permission to operate at the airport.