Picking up Uber passengers at the airport is one of the most lucrative, and confusing, parts of driving for Uber.
In the early days of Uber, airport pickups were treated like any other ride request. When a someone at the airport requested a ride, the closest driver would be the fare.
More and more drivers started to realize the benefits of waiting as close to the airport terminal and airport dropoff areas as possible.
Drivers started driving around airports constantly. Or some used tactics such as waiting in short-term parking lot then walking to the terminal with a cellphone in hand. Others would sit in no parking zones, eagerly waiting for a fare.
Security officials at airports are always on high-alert. They started noticing suspicious behavior on airport property and eventually realized it was enterprising Uber drivers.
Many airports struggled to figure out ways to deal with the potential security risks. Most airports started imposing limits on ridesharing. In some cases, they resorted to flat out banning Uber to force drivers to stop loitering.
Fortunately, airport authorities saw the value of ridesharing and opted to collaborate with Uber and Lyft. This collaboration lead to specific Uber and Lyft Driver airport rules.
Airports now have specified pick-up areas for rideshare passengers and designated waiting areas for rideshare drivers. Uber has built out a very helpful page to help passengers and drivers learn more about specific airport policies.
Let’s take a look at how to handle profitable ride requests at the airport.
- Why Airport Rides Are Lucrative
- The Uber Airport Virtual Queue
- Problems with the Virtual Queue
- Is Waiting in the Virtual Queue Worth It?
- Best Times to Wait in the Virtual Queue
- Uber Insta Pings
Why Airport Rides Are Lucrative
As we mentioned above, when drivers caught on to the fact that ride requests were almost guaranteed at the airport, drivers started waiting at busy airports. Rides to and from the airport are very lucrative because they tend to be very long. In some cities, a ride to the airport is a minimum of 45 minutes.
According to this post, a savvy driver was able to make $200 from just 2 airport trips! The rideshare driver started out the day taking a passenger to the airport earning a few dollars shy of $100. While they were at the airport, the driver received another request within a few minutes of dropping off the original passenger. Since the next passenger was going on a 45-minute drive away from the airport (which is very common for airport rides), the driver was able to earn over $100. Bear in mind, that was within the first 2-hours of working.
In general, drivers who score airport ride requests are able to make a lot of money
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When people get off their flight, they are usually pretty eager to get to their next destination. Most people are willing to pay whatever price is asked. Uber knows this and will charge passengers accordingly.
Thanks to the combination of low wait times, long ride times, and high passenger costs, drivers profit handsomely.
The Uber Airport Virtual Queue
Drivers who are interested in accepting airport ride requests will need to learn the ropes first, so let’s go over the facts.
Back in 2015, Uber implemented a new system for drivers in regards to how to go about picking up airport passengers. Dubbed the Airport Virtual Queue, this system places drivers in a waiting list, ensuring no one is skipped.
To get in line, drivers simply need to be at the airport, open the driver app, and join the queue. Upon doing this, drivers will be added to the waiting list that determines who gets the next airport request.
Those that are queued up will be able to see exactly how many drivers are in front of them as well as an estimated wait time until the next passenger.
Problems with the Uber Airport Queue
Although the Virtual Queue system is great in theory, there are a few issues to be aware. One of the most annoying issues is the duration of time you may have to wait between rides. As we have mentioned previously, other drivers know how profitable airport rides are.
Due to this popularity, if you show up late to the airport there may be a bunch of people ahead of you in the queue, leading to a painfully long wait time.
Many drivers have suggested that they never move up in the queue at all. There have also reports that the estimated wait times Uber provides appear to be wildly inaccurate. This can lead to mismanaged time and lost wages.
Worse still, on occasion drivers have stated that they were kicked out of the queue after waiting for a long period of time. Many of these reports also state that the driver was bumped because they did not accept nearby ride requests (that were not airport rides). We understand how why this would be frustrating.
Another common occurrence drivers experience during the wait is getting requests from UberEats. If you turn down these requests, you might be bumped from the Uber queue.
When you have no other requests answering taking a delivery might be a good idea. But if you make driving all the way out to the airport and back without earning a profit a habit, this will dissolve your profits. Especially if the airport has a pay toll for leaving the area. Yes, that is actually a thing in Dallas, Texas and several other airports.
Is Waiting in the Virtual Queue Worth It?
Drivers who are able to pick up a passenger on the way to the airport may be tempted to join the queue. When this occurs, look and see where you are at in the queue. If there are a lot of people ahead of you, be leery of staying. Once you confirm your place in line, review the estimated wait time.
If there are few people ahead of you but an hour until the next request, make the most logical and profitable choice. Bear in mind other important factors such as traffic, the expected fare you may earn, and whether or not it is worth it to leave the airport.
For example, drivers who are required to pay a toll to leave the airport may make more money by simply waiting around.
Drivers who enter into a short queue at an airport that is a good distance away from residential areas should consider staying despite the estimated wait time. More than likely it is in your wallet’s best interest to stick around rather than waste the gas it would take to leave empty-handed.
In the end, drivers will have to make the decision on whether or not it is worth it to stay. There are times when airport ride requests earn you a mere $8 for your time. Since this is not sustainable, the decision to wait at the airport should not be taken lightly.
Always keep track of your earnings and expenses. Doing so will help you develop a good idea of how your business is going. Ensuring that you are able to keep your rideshare business in the profits is very important.
Best Times to Wait in the Virtual Uber Queue
Naturally, there are tricks that drivers can use in their favor when seeking out airport ride requests.
To start off with, night owls who want to drive but not pick up drunk passengers should look to the airport. There are plenty of travelers that return home at night, even between the hours of midnight at 5 a.m.
Flights, such as the red eye, may not have a bunch of people on board, but the number of drivers in the queue will be lower. To fully capitalize on this, make sure to use a flight-related app, such as Flight Scanner. This app provides updated info on incoming flights, ensuring that you are able to be stationed when passengers arrive.
On the other hand, night owl drivers may be able to answer ride requests from passengers who need to get to the airport early for their morning flights. Six in the morning is a popular time for flights, meaning that passengers are often hailing rides at 3 a.m. in order to get to the airport on time for their early morning flight.
Once you’ve dropped a passenger off at the airport, it is usually worth it to hop on the queue. This is especially true if your local airport is a solid drive outside of the city. In times like this, use your head. Even if you have to wait an hour before the next passenger arrives, if they are going to pay you to leave the airport plus some extra cash, it might be worth it to stick around.
Having said that, some drivers have reported having to wait six hours for a ride request to come in. There is no way this wait is justified. So if you find yourself in an extra-long queue, bite the bullet and cut your losses.
Another great time to wait in the Virtual Queue is simply when you need a break from driving passengers. We have spoken to drivers who wait to take their lunch break in the waiting lot until after they drop off a passenger at the airport. Once the drop-off is complete, they hop into the Virtual Queue and eat lunch while they wait.
Other drivers report taking advantage of the wait times by cleaning out their car. We all know a dirty car leads to poor ratings, so keep in clean!
Uber Insta Pings
Drivers that have never heard about the Insta Pings are about to be delighted.
Insta Ping occurs when you receive a ride request within ten minutes of completing another one. This is not the same as the Virtual Queue we mentioned earlier. To participate in the high volume action known as Insta Ping, drivers must follow three rules.
First, after you have dropped off a passenger at the airport, stay online! Do not turn the app off or log out. The next step is to stay in the terminal area. Although airport officials frown on loitering, if you are trying to get into the Instant Queue you will not be there long anyway. Having said that, if they ask you to move along, do so.
If not, stay in the terminal area for the next ten minutes and do not leave.
The last step is to check the Partner app. Watch it carefully. Make sure that your car shows up there, otherwise your efforts are in vain. As long as you are in position, if a passenger makes a ride request while you are still in the terminal, you have a good chance of getting it before anyone else in the Virtual Queue (since you are already at the terminal).
In the event that no requests come in during the specified duration of time, you will be removed from the Instant Queue and added to the Virtual Queue.
Since the initial turmoil Uber drivers faced at the airport, the ride request system has come a long way. Now, drivers can queue themselves up, ensure that they are able to get a ride request, and make a lot of money doing so. If, that is, they are able to time their arrivals well and weigh the pros as well as cons when it comes to time-management.
This is true in aspects of ridesharing, but especially so with airport rides: Always make sure that waiting is worth your time.