Airport rideshare pickups start; some gripe about fees

Uber X and Lyft drivers smoothly began authorized pickups at the Atlanta airport over the weekend, officials said, although some passengers are unhappy about the new $3.85 fee that's added to the bill.

Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman Reese McCranie said the ride-share pickups have been working “seamlessly.”

Passengers can now be picked up by Uber X or Lyft at the lower level curbside of the domestic terminal North or South, or at the lower level outer curb at the international terminal.

The city legalized and regulated airport ride-share pickups effective Jan. 1, taking the place of a loosely-enforced ban before the regulations and fees were established.

Signs on the main level direct passengers to the lower level curbside for ride-share pickups. But not everyone knows there is a lower level at the domestic terminal, since both check-in and baggage claim are on the same main level.

The new system requires drivers to wait in a new “staging area” lot off Sullivan Road for travelers to request rides, then they can proceed to the terminal to pick up passengers.

“Business has been booming,” said Uber Atlanta general manager Luke Marklin. “We’re staying very busy doing a lot of airport trips.”

The $3.85 fee per pickup at the airport — which includes the same $1.50 fee paid by taxi passengers, along with a $2.35 per-passenger surcharge for businesses like Uber and Lyft that use private background checks instead of state fingerprint checks — has irked some passengers. Some have voiced their discontent on social media.

Marklin acknowledged that Uber has heard from riders on that issue.

“Uber is known for being a very affordable option and the fee that is placed on Uber pickups that is above other modes of transportation doesn’t seem to fit with most travelers’ expectations,” Marklin said.

Lyft Atlanta general manager Sam Bond said the fees riders are paying "were part of the agreement that everybody came together and hammered out."

“We think even with the additional fees, it’s still a very attractive proposition for passengers,” Bond said.

The flat rate for taxi rides from Hartsfield-Jackson is $30 to downtown, for example, while Lyft rides can be closer to $20.

McCranie also said those are the fees that Uber and Lyft agreed to. State law mandates that the fees can only be used to recover costs. Other airports assess similar fees, and the companies pass them along to riders.

“The fee was for us to ensure that we could provide the service at a very high level,” airport General Manager Roosevelt Council said on Monday.