New rules enacted yesterday by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will add a $4 surcharge to fares on rides to and from Dulles International Airport and Reagan National Airport facilitated by car-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft.
While the new fees bring the transportation-network companies, or TNCs, into compliance with airport regulations and Virginia law—previously, they were not technically permitted to be shuttling passengers to or from airport grounds—the companies are balking at having to attach extra charges to their fares.
The extra $4 that Uber and Lyft will charge is drawing outrage because it is higher than the $3 fee that gets tacked on by standard taxis picking up passengers at the airports. (Cabs do not charge an additional fee for airport drop-offs.)
Uber will pass the $4 fee directly to customers, but is unhappy to do it, according to company spokesman Taylor Bennett.
“This fee is among the highest in the country and unfairly inflates the price of a safe, reliable ride that hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors depend on every day,” Bennett tells Washingtonian in an email. “At more than twice the fee imposed on taxis at National Airport, we expect this new fee will result in riders paying nearly 25 percent more for an UberX trip to and from Reagan Airport and about 15 percent more for Dulles trips.”
Only two other airports in the country—San Francisco International and Los Angeles International—charge fees similar to what MWAA is adopting. Fewer than three dozen airports nationwide charge transportation apps fees at all, and the average is about $2.50 per ride. But that may be because the airports are still playing catch-up with the relatively young technology.
“Everyone pays a fee to operate at the airport and utilize airport facilities,” MWAA spokesman Chris Paolino says. Though the taxi fee is ostensibly lower, Paolino says the arrangement is fair and that traditional taxi services operate under a different permitting structure with additional requirements that do not govern Uber and Lyft’s airport operations. And, he says, Dulles and National—like all airports— are required by federal regulations to be self-sufficient: “We don’t take tax dollars,” he says, and all revenues are “generated by fees associated with activity at the airport.”
In theory, the new rules make Uber and Lyft more accessible to airport travelers. “Prior to these regulations they had to stage off-airport,” he says. “Now we’re making available at each airport a waiting area for Uber and Lyft and ultimately any other TNC app.”