Uber drivers gather at Atlanta City Hall to speak on airport pickups

More than 150 Uber drivers and others gathered at Atlanta City Hall on Wednesday morning for a meeting where the company is pushing for its ride-share operations at the world's busiest airport -- and to counter a proposal by Hartsfield-Jackson International to require fingerprint-based background checks and other measures.

The move comes as the Atlanta City Council transportation committee hears public comments on the issue before it considers the airport's proposal to legalize and regulate operations by ride-share operations Uber X and Lyft. The city council committee members will deliberate the airport proposal at a meeting next month.

So many Uber drivers, Lyft drivers and others filled Atlanta City Council Chambers that the council committee opened an overflow room with a televised version of the meeting.

"I think Uber has a right" to operate at the airport, said Trejon Smith, an Uber driver. He said he thinks limits on ride-share operations are a sign of the airport "trying to do it for the limo drivers and taxi drivers, so they can get paid."

Hartsfield-Jackson argues that airport pickups by Uber X and Lyft are not currently legal. It wants to require the fingerprint-based background checks for the safety of passengers and put in place other limits to reduce congestion and establish a level playing field.

Uber airport

Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Miguel Southwell said the requirement for fingerprint-based criminal background checks with the Georgia Department of Driver Services “gives everybody confidence in the system…. It really should be a welcome part of the process.”

Uber argues that such requirements will prevent it from operating at the airport, and contends there are no current regulations at the airport that apply to ride-sharing. As such, its Uber X drivers are already picking up passengers at the Atlanta airport. The airport's ban on Uber X and Lyft pickups is loosely enforced.

Uber's public policy manager Trevor Theunissen said the company believes its private background check is "a comprehensive background check process."

"Our product wouldn't be as successful as it is if people didn't feel it was safe," Theunissen said. "We look forward to making our case with the City Council."


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About the Author

Kelly Yamanouchi
Kelly Yamanouchi
Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.