Uber and Lyft Gain Approval to Serve LAX

The often-controversial ride-sharing services just got a nod of approval that could further change how we travel.

The regulatory battle between taxis and app-based driver services such as Uber and Lyft has arrived at airports.

Once a lucrative source of business for taxi drivers who have faced falling profits since the rise of Silicon Valley competitors, some major U.S. airports are now allowing the app-based transportation services to pick up passengers at their terminals.

Last week, Los Angeles International International Airport, or LAX, became the largest U.S. airport to grant full access to the popular services when LA officials voted in favor of granting permits for driver-for-hire services, including Uber and Lyft.

Before that vote, driver-for-hire services were allowed to drop off passengers at LAX, but only transportation companies with permits could legally pick up people.

With the permit, the ride-sharing companies would be required to pay the airport $4 per drop-off and $4 per pickup, which would probably be passed on to the passenger. Additionally, the airport would require $25,000 per month from each company for the right to operate at LAX.

The vote was particularly significant for Uber, which continues to face legal and regulatory challenges throughout the world. Last week, a California administrative law judge recommended that the state fine the company $7.3 million and suspend its operations for not providing required data reports showing that it gives equal access to all customers.

 Lyft car

The vote was a major blow for Los Angeles’ 2,361 licensed cabdrivers who have fought against expanding ride-sharing services at LAX.

“The playing field has been unfair from the beginning,” Checker Cab driver Greg Inks told The Los Angeles Times. “We have our fingerprints at City Hall. We have to pass a test. It’s hard to get a license.” Others also have raised concerns about allowing drivers not vetted by the city to transport passengers.

Despite the legal questions that the transportation apps raise, as many as 20 airports nationwide are rethinking their regulations in the wake of pressure to establish some control of the app-based services and meet travelers’ demands for more choices, said Ray Mundy, the executive director of the Airport Ground Transportation Association.

“We are in a period of transition,” Mundy told The Washington Post. “It is going to be airport by airport making decisions.” He predicts that most major airports will allow widespread use of the services within two years.

Los Angeles officials’ vote to grant permits to Uber and Lyft was supported by more than 20,000 Los Angeles residents who signed a petition pressing LAX to allow the companies to pick up and drop off passengers at the airport to cut transportation costs. A typical taxi drive from LAX to downtown L.A. costs upwards of $50 without tip, but Uber and Lyft rides are closer to $30 total during period of low demand, although that can rise sharply during high-demand periods.

Nashville International Airport was the first of more than a dozen major U.S. airports to allow pickups by app-based driver-for-hire services, according to the Los Angeles Times.