You might not be able to Uber to Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport starting Jan. 31. Here’s why

Uber says it will stop serving Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport at 11:59 p.m. Jan. 31 unless a court stops a fee increase on ride-share companies.

The fee for companies like Uber and Lyft to pick up and drop off passengers at the airport is scheduled to increase to $4 per trip on Feb. 1. The additional money will help fund the airport’s infrastructure.

Uber shared its intentions in a letter sent to Sky Harbor Aviation Director Jim Bennett on Tuesday.

“Please accept this letter as official notice from Uber Technologies Inc. that, in the event the Airport or City does not place a hold on the implementation of the proposed TNC fee increase, or a legal stay is not granted, we will be ceasing all operations at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport effective 11:59 p.m. on Friday, January 31st, 2020,” Chris Garcia, Uber’s global airport partnerships manager, wrote in a letter that Uber says it delivered Tuesday afternoon.

Uber declined to provide additional comment.

The city said it has not received any similar communication from Lyft.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a motion with the Arizona Supreme Court on Wednesday asking for a stay on the fee until the court can rule on whether it violates state law. Last week, Brnovich announced he was asking the court to review the fees, which he feels are illegal.

How did the fee increase happen?

The city council voted in December to increase the fee after a yearlong study of what  ride-share companies pay at Sky Harbor compared with other U.S. airports.

As part of the study, a committee met with industry stakeholders and compared fees at other airports. It found that many airports were charging for both pick-ups and drop-offs and recouping more of their infrastructure costs.

Sky Harbor was charging only for pick-ups. Airports in Baltimore, Denver, Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco and other cities charge for all trips.

In addition, airports such as Las Vegas and Los Angeles require ride-share customers to be picked up away from the terminal to alleviate traffic congestion. The committee decided to continue to allow Phoenix customers to be picked up and dropped off at the terminal, but to offer riders who elect to be dropped off at the 44th Street PHX Sky Train station a smaller fee increase.

How the fees will work

Currently, Uber and Lyft users pay a $2.66 fee (in addition to the ride fare) to be picked up at Sky Harbor. There is no charge to be dropped off. Starting Feb. 1, the fee will be $4 per drop-off and pick-up.

The fee will increase annually:

  • $4.25 in 2021.
  • $4.50 in 2022.
  • $4.75 in 2023.
  • $5 in 2024.

Riders will pay less to be picked up or dropped off at the Sky Train station. Those riders would pay a $2.80 fee each way and ride the Sky Train shuttle to the terminals. Shuttles come every three to five minutes. The airport hopes this option will reduce congestion at the terminals.

Fee on taxis, shuttles and buses

Taxis, shuttles and buses also currently pay fees to pick up passengers at to the airport. The vote will require them to pay a drop-off fee as well, but it reduces their fees overall. The new charge for a taxi is $1.75 each way, $2.25 for a shuttle and $5 for a charter bus. These services also face additional regulations that Uber and Lyft do not.

Bennett said taxi companies bid competitively on contracts to serve the airport. In addition to the fees, those contracts require:

  • Transportation operators can’t pass the fees on to customers.
  • They must have a letter of credit.
  • They must provide service 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
  • No one can wait longer than 5 minutes for pick-up.
  • Fares are set by city code and surge pricing is not allowed.
  • Rules for how quickly lost items are returned to riders.
  • Vehicles must undergo inspections and meet age requirements.
  • The use of alternative fuel vehicles.
  • Drivers must pass a written test, an FBI check and a TSA threat assessment.
  • The companies must be able accommodate passengers under the Americans with Disability Act.

You can connect with Arizona Republic Consumer Travel Reporter Melissa Yeager at [email protected] You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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