I got an email the other day from a brand new driver who was asking me if they could do airport rides even though they haven’t gotten their airport placard yet. The short answer to that question is no. Most airports these days actually require that you have a special permit from Uber or Lyft in order to do pickups and, in a lot of cases, even to do drop offs.
Watch my video to get the full details on airport permits for new drivers, then check out the video transcript below if you prefer to read.
All drivers must pass a test and wait for airport permit placards
If you’re a new driver, you usually have to pass a test that’s given by Uber or Lyft online and then you won’t get that permit for at least a couple of weeks in the mail. If you’re in that situation and you’re waiting for that permit, first of all make sure that you continue to follow up with Uber. Send a message in the app and ask about the permit. I’ve seen countless times from drivers, they’re saying they passed the test but they didn’t register and the permit never arrived.
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It’s easy to avoid pickups. What about drop-offs?
It’s easy enough to avoid doing pickups at the airport, right? Just don’t go to the airport and you won’t get pickups at the airport. But during that time you’re waiting for the permit to come in the mail you could also easily still get passengers headed to the airport. Especially in busy cities and during certain times there are a lot of people headed to the airport. So what do you do? Well, the ideal situation would be if Uber didn’t allow you to get any airport rides while you’re waiting for that permit, but they haven’t built that into the system yet so, for now, you know the reason why this is such an issue for drivers is because you don’t know where the passenger’s headed until you arrive at the location, at the passenger pick up point, and start the trip.
If you show up, start the ride, and you see the destination is the airport you’d have to cancel that ride and the passenger would get to rate you. Now, you’re probably going to get a low rating in that situation because the passenger’s going to be pissed. They’re probably on a tight schedule because they’re going to the airport and now they might be late for their flight.
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You can’t avoid that request in the first place, but if you’re paying attention when the passenger comes out you can at least see that they have luggage, it’s obvious that they’re gonna go to the airport. When they get to the car say, “Hey, is your destination the airport?” And if they say yes, you can explain why you can’t do it, and then as long as you don’t start the trip that way you can explain the situation and cancel the trip without them being allowed to rate you. Not ideal, but better than the other situation.
Now, let’s say you’re in an area, or a time, or a place where all of these passengers want to go to the airport and you keep getting airport requests. The other thing that you could do is as soon as you get any request send a quick text to your passenger, as soon as they accept the ride, especially if you happen to be driving during certain times where airport rides are more prevalent, like in the mornings, or if you’re in more of a residential neighborhood. You’re probably not gonna get a pick up from TGI Fridays, you know, that someone wants to head to the airport.
If you’re in a suburb or downtown area, or someone’s coming from an apartment building, look at their address. Look it up on Google Maps, whatever you have to do. Send the quick text. Sending that text message ahead of time is definitely a better solution since you’re gonna avoid the low ratings, but also you’re gonna avoid the wasted time and money of having to drive to a passenger and then to only discover that they’re going to the airport and now you can’t take them
Try to get the permit from both Uber and Lyft
The other little trick that you might want to consider, you can sign up for both Uber and Lyft and see who can get you the permit first, or faster. You know, I’ve heard from drivers who went into office hours for Uber to get their airport permit, but since they’re only sent out by mail that doesn’t really help. And Lyft on the other hand, I have heard from drivers that have been able to go into their in person hub centers, which are only in a few cities, but they’ve been able to get their airport pass there. Then at least that way you have something to show on your dashboard when you go to the airport.
Can you do a ride without the permit? What’s the risk?
You may be wondering if you can just do airport rides without a permit, or if should you wait to get the permit. Honestly, I think the odds of you getting busted are super low. There’s so many Uber and Lyft cars going to the airport these days but, honestly, I just don’t know if it’s really worth the risk. I mean, I’m assuming this ticket is probably at least $1000, $500 to $1000, for a measly $10 or $20 airport ride. I don’t know if that’s worth it. When you’re just getting started it’s really more about learning the ropes, getting the hang of the thing. I think it’s okay to give up a few airport rides here and there and just get used to being a ride share driver.
If you’re more of an existing driver, you’re a little more advanced and you know what you’re doing, the other time this may come up is if you get taken into a new area. Let’s say you normally drive in San Francisco, you get pulled down into San Jose, and then while you’re in San Jose you get an airport request. You have your SSO airport permit, but you don’t have that San Jose airport permit, and they do require some sort of permit for dropping off, for example. So in that situation then you have to decide is the risk gonna be worth it or not. I know of some driver’s who will make passengers sit up front, sort of like in the old days when it was the wild, wild west. Then take all of the trade dress down, and sort of just pretend that you’re dropping off a friend. I think, like I said, the odds are super low, but you have to decide if the risk is worth it for you or not.
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