Sky Harbor Airport is trying to reach a compromise with transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft, to allow them to operate at the airport.
Currently, only approved commercial Uber vehicles can operate at the airport, because the drivers have complied with Sky Harbor’s requirements for transportation vehicles. The major point of contention between transportation network companies and Sky Harbor is Sky Harbor’s requirement for commercial drivers to pass its fingerprint-based background check.
“We welcome TNCs, we just want them to follow our procedures here at the airport,” said Steve Grubbs, Sky Harbor’s Deputy Aviation Director of Operations, at the Phoenix Aviation Advisory Board’s meeting this month.
Uber’s more expensive and luxurious vehicles, UberBLACK, UberSUV, and UberLUX, are commercial vehicles and follow Sky Harbor’s regulations. Uber’s budget category, UberX, is operated by individuals using their everyday cars and is currently not allowed to operate at Sky Harbor. Getting an Uber at Sky Harbor may be more expensive than usual for this reason.
To operate a commercial vehicle like a taxi or Uber vehicle in Arizona, drivers must pass a name-based background check. Sky Harbor, however, requires drivers to pass a fingerprint-based background check to operate at the airport.
Uber and Lyft require drivers to pass a name-based background check, as is required by state law, but disagree that fingerprint-based background checks should be necessary.
“Fingerprints are a regulatory burden that bring an increased cost, as well as create barriers to entry for many drivers,” said Timothy Burr, government relations manager for Lyft, to the Phoenix Aviation Advisory Board at the meeting last month. Burr said fingerprint-based background checks added burden with no benefit given that drivers already went through a thorough screening process.
Burr said that the fees associated with additional background checks prevent many drivers from pursuing airport authorization. Sky Harbor charges $39 for a fingerprint background check, said Grubbs.
“If their qualified to drive me around town in the middle of the night, they can drive me to the airport,” said Ryan Dotson, a frequent Uber user, about Sky Harbor’s background check policy.
Uber, which was founded in 2009, operates in 60 countries, according to their website. Uber and other transportation network companies have already struck deals with other airports around the country, including Denver International, Dallas/Fort Worth International, Los Angeles International, and San Francisco International airports, said Grubbs.
People expect these options to be available at a major airport like Sky Harbor, said Grubbs.
Uber and Lyft allow people to get a ride somewhere with the touch of a button. Ordering a ride through Uber or Lyft’s apps contacts the closest available driver. These rideshare services have become popular for their speed, convenience, and low cost.
“Uber cost me $33 to get to the airport. Coming back home, I couldn’t get an Uber so I had to take a taxi which costed $68 for the same distance,” said Stephanie Cain about her first experience with Uber. “I definitely want the option of Uber at Sky Harbor. It’s much cheaper and way more convenient.”