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Is Your Airport Hiding Big Uber and Lyft Fees from You?

It’s impossible to be an informed consumer if you’re not allowed to know exactly what you’re paying for.

Frommer’s has found that a majority of airports in the United States that force mandatory passenger pickup fees for all rides on Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing apps—surcharges that are as high as $7 per trip—are not informing travelers of the practice, and neither are the apps.

Let’s take 10 examples from some of the USA’s busiest airport areas.

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS): $3.25 fee per drop-off and $3.25 fee per pickup, reduced to $1.50 for shared rides. Not disclosed on the airport’s ground transportation page

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD): Uber and Lyft list $5 per ride on their websites. Not disclosed on the airport’s ground transportation page

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE): $4 fee per drop-off and $4 fee per pickup. Not disclosed on the airport’s ground transportation page

John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California (SNA): $3 fee per drop-off and $3 fee per pickup. Not disclosed on the airport’s ground transportation page

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX): $4 per drop-off and $4 fee per pickup. Not disclosed on the ground transportation pages of the LAX website, but the fees are listed in an operations-related section of the airport authority’s site

 New York City’s JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark airports (JFK, LGA, EWR): $2.50 fee per drop-off and $2.50 fee per pickup. Disclosure not under rideshare, but under  “for-hire-vehicle trips” on airport’s website

Orlando International Airport (MCO): $7 per pickup. Not disclosed on the airport’s ground transportation page

Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA): $5 per trip. Not disclosed on the airport’s ground transportation page

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA): Reported as $6 per ride in 2018. Not disclosed on the airport’s ground transportation page or in the facility’s handbook for rideshare drivers

Tampa International Airport (TPA): $5 per ride. Disclosed on the airport’s ground transportation page

Final tally: Of the 10 popular cities we checked, only Tampa’s airport was the most transparent about the fees in the ground transportation section of the airport website. (Bravo, Tampa—even though your fee is one of the country’s highest.)

All the rest do not inform travelers about mandatory fees for rideshare usage on their pages about ground transportation, or they bury disclosure in another section of the website.

Countless more airports also levy mandatory surcharges—countless because the airports aren’t telling you about the fees. 

Frommer’s reached out to the airports on this list that do not disclose fees online. Airport authorities in Fort Lauderdale, Reagan Washington, and Seattle did not respond to our requests for current mandatory fees.

In a few cases, ride-hailing companies might detail surcharges somewhere on their own websites, as Uber and Lyft both do for O’Hare’s $5 fee, even if the airport site doesn’t. This disclosure is not consistent across all airports or even within cities. Lyft, for example, goes into detail about the extra city and county charges you’ll incur for hailing a ride in the city of Seattle proper, but Lyft says nothing about the specific extra charges at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where charges are even higher.

Airport fees are being extracted from travelers in virtual silence, and passengers are not even alerted about fee amounts during the booking process on the rideshare apps themselves.

If you think you can simply find out what extra money you paid by checking your receipt from your rideshare app, there’s an information blackout among the rideshare companies, too.

In January, Frommer’s reported that Lyft refuses to provide customers with itemized receipts that disclose how much of the total payment was made up of padded fees.

With neither airports nor rideshare apps reliably disclosing to passengers exactly what they’re paying for, you might be forced to search local news reports from the past to get any idea of what you’re paying over the top in surcharges.

“These were publicly voted charges, and our local papers have covered this thoroughly,” the public information officer at Boston Logan told Frommer’s.

If you don’t fly to Boston often, you probably missed that coverage.

Similarly, the only way passengers are able to ascertain the $7 extra fee in Orlando would be to look up news reports from 2023, when the latest price hike was announced.

When I asked one airport representative in Orlando why the surcharge is not disclosed to riders, I was given a peek into the logic of the fee-disclosure shell game that’s going on between the airports and the rideshare apps. The airports claim they don’t need to tell passengers about mandatory fees because, technically, they’re being charged to the apps, not to customers. 

“The pick-up/ drop-off fee is charged directly to the ride app company on a monthly basis per amount of operations, and not to the individual passenger,” Boston’s representative wrote.

I heard similar logic from other major airports. Passengers aren’t forewarned about the mandatory surcharge on the Orlando airport’s website because the fee is technically charged to ride-hailing companies, not passengers themselves, and therefore “is not a customer fee,” the airport’s representative said.

Because neither airports nor rideshare companies feel they have a legal obligation to tell their customers exactly what they’re paying, consumers are kept in the dark.

Even if a local airport authority isn’t slapping surcharges on your ride, there are other ways to puppeteer the pricing to go higher.

One self-described Uber driver in Cleveland, Elan Yaniv, recently explained to why rideshare rates can be unusually high from that city’s airport. “I’ve been driving for Uber and Lyft for almost two years and can offer some insight,” Yaniv told the outlet. “Uber places a few restrictions on the drivers for airport pickups, which effectively throttle supply.”

That manipulation drives prices higher.

If Lyft and Uber aren’t disclosing surcharges or methods being used to drive prices higher, and neither are the airports that levy the fees, and the government is allowing all parties to dodge disclosure, how is a consumer supposed to have enough information to make an informed choice about how they’re spending their money and whether another transportation method would be a better buy?