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Transportation Network Companies Continue To Make Inroads At Airports

John Wayne (SNA) this week became the latest airport to set a policy allowing complete access to transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft to drop off and pick up passengers at the airport.

After a contentious debate that included a representative from Yellow Cab of Greater Orange County, which holds the franchise for taxi-cab service at SNA, the five-member Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed Tuesday to the airport’s proposal to allow TNCs to operate under a permit.

SNA spokeswoman Jenny Wedge says a draft operating permit specific to TNCs was created in collaboration with all TNCs that are authorized through the California Public Utilities Commission.

With the Board of Supervisors’ approval, the airport will “address some of the specific requirements in the permit and begin working with the TNCs to obtain the permit so they can operate at John Wayne Airport fairly and equitably with other transportation providers,” Wedge says.

The permit also requires TNC drivers to have proper insurance to comply with a County of Orange ordinance that requires all ground transportation providers to have a license or permit to conduct business on airport property, she adds.

“The issuing of permits won’t happen overnight, but we’ll be working diligently to move forward on this process,” Wedge says.

TNCs are making inroads at several airports around the country, although not without considerable controversy. Some airports have policies limiting the types of services TNCs can provide; others attempt to ban the services altogether, with limited success. The Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association has lobbied heavily against the new form of ride service, calling TNCs “a serious threat to public safety” because of what they say are insurance issues and lack of regulation.

Still, several airports have taken action in recent months. San Francisco International (SFO) announced in October that it has signed agreements with TNC companies UberX, Lyft and Sidecar that allows permitted drivers to pick up and drop off at SFO.

The Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority also enacted a policy late last year. The ride-sharing companies are included in Nashville International’s (BNA) commercial ground transportation policy, which governs all ground transportation service providers operating at the airport. All peer-to-peer ride-sharing operators are required to apply for a permit, pay user fees and be clearly identified in order to offer services on airport property. Passengers wanting to use the new ride-sharing services are picked up in designated areas.

Rob Wigington, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, recently told Airport Revenue News that the strategy was to “embrace” the new service for travelers rather than fight against it.

“We now have them as part of our official ground transportation policy,” he says. “We regulate how they will access the airport and the fees they pay, and how they will pick up and drop off passengers. We worked out a geo-fence so that we can begin to track when they are in the vicinity to pick up a passenger.”

Other airports also are testing the waters. Among them are San Diego International (SAN), which reportedly will start a pilot program April 1 that will allow passenger pick-ups by TNC drivers. And the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that officials at Louisville International (SDF) are working to finalize regulations that would allow TNCs to operate at the airport.