Tired of fees? Here’s a charge you may be un­aware of

Air­ports na­tion­wide add sur­charges for trips that orig­i­nate at their curbs

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Scott Mayerowitz AP Air­lines Writer

NEW YORK >> Ever feel like the taxi ride from the air­port costs more than the trip there? It’s not your imag­i­na­tion. Air­ports across the coun­try add sur­charges of up to $5 a ride — typ­i­cally passed di­rectly on to trav­el­ers — for trips orig­i­nat­ing at their curbs. There are sim­i­lar charges for li­mou­sine, Uber and Lyft driv­ers as well as shut­tle buses for ho­tels, car rental com­pa­nies and off-air­port park­ing lots.

Those fees quickly add up, cost­ing trav­el­ers more than $183 mil­lion last year at the 50 largest air­ports in the U.S., ac­cord­ing to As­so­ci­ated Press cal­cu­la­tions based on data ob­tained through dozens of pub­lic records re­quests.

“What are we do­ing that causes the air­port to spend more money?” said Kim­berly Grubb of Fort Worth, Texas, who was re­cently await­ing a Lyft pickup at San Fran­cisco In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

“It wouldn’t be any dif­fer­ent than if we knew peo­ple here who could come pick us up,” Grubb adds. “It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”

San Fran­cisco has one of the high­est pickup fees in the na­tion: $5 for taxi rides that orig­i­nate there and $3.85 for rides pro­vided by trans­porta­tion net­work com­pa­nies such as Uber and Lyft. Asked why the air­port needs to charge such fees, spokesman Doug Yakel replied that state and fed­eral reg­u­la­tions al­low them.

Air­ports across the coun­try say the ground trans­porta­tion fees are nec­es­sary so they can pay to main­tain the many miles of roads on their prop­er­ties. The fees also go, in some cases, to hire staff to di­rect traf­fic and to dis­patch taxis. With the growth of app-based ride ser­vices like Uber and Lyft, air­ports have also con­structed new wait­ing ar­eas and park­ing lots.

Of­fi­cials at most air­ports were re­luc­tant to fur­ther ex­plain why they charged the fees ex­cept that do­ing so helps keep air­port costs down, which in turn makes it cheaper for air­lines to serve the com­mu­nity.

At Wash­ing­ton’s Rea­gan Na­tional Air­port, taxis have to pay $3 to ac­cess the pickup line, while other ser­vices like Uber have to pay $4. Spokesman Rob Yin­gling says the air­port has very lim­ited space and needs to cre­ate wait­ing ar­eas for the cars as well as pay dis­patch­ers and do road main­te­nance.

How­ever, San Fran­cisco, Wash­ing­ton and most other air­ports don’t charge pri­vate cars to use their roads to pick up fam­ily and friends. (There are ex­cep­tions — Dallas-Fort Worth In­ter­na­tional Air­port charges at least $2 just to en­ter the air­port grounds.)

And it’s not just taxi rides that cost money.

You may de­cide to park your own car at a pri­vate park­ing lot a few blocks away from Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Air­port. There is a still a charge — passed on through the lot op­er­a­tor — for the shut­tle ride to the air­port. In L.A., that ranges from $2.57 to $3.85 for each loop around the air­port, de­pend­ing on the size of the shut­tle bus. Harts­field-Jack­son At­lanta In­ter­na­tional Air­port charges off-air­port park­ing lots $10 per park­ing space, per year, to op­er­ate their shut­tles.

Those rent­ing cars aren’t im­mune from the fees ei­ther.

For in­stance, Las Ve­gas’s McCar­ran In­ter­na­tional Air­port charges rental car com­pa­nies a shut­tle fee of $1 for ev­ery car rented.

Over­all, the high­est com­bined fees per orig­i­nat­ing pas­sen­ger were in Las Ve­gas, the two Wash­ing­ton D.C. air­ports and Dal­lasFort Worth. (The AP anal­y­sis ex­cludes con­nect­ing pas­sen­gers be­cause they don’t have a need for ground trans­porta­tion.)

Las Ve­gas’s air­port col­lected $17.4 mil­lion last year in such fees, which came out to 84 cents per orig­i­nat­ing pas­sen­ger, the high­est of the 50 largest U.S. air­ports. That pales com­pared with the $11.60 per en­planed pas­sen­ger the air­port col­lected in land­ing fees. But the $2 per taxi pickup fee does add up when the ride from the air­port to most ho­tels is just 10 to 15 min­utes.

Wash­ing­ton Dulles In­ter­na­tional was the next most ex­pen­sive at 80 cents fol­lowed by Na­tional at 79 cents and Dallas at 67 cents.

The op­er­a­tor of the three main New York City-area air­ports is the only large air­port sys­tem not to charge a pickup fee for taxis, Ubers or limos. The Port Author­ity

“For them to just tack on a charge like that is kind of adding in­sult to in­jury. It’s like kick­ing peo­ple while they’re down.” — Lee Joseph, a flier from Port­land, Ore­gon

of New York and New Jersey does charge a fee for of­fair­port park­ing lot shut­tles and an ad­ver­tis­ing charge for ho­tel shut­tles, mak­ing its av­er­age ground trans­porta­tion fee 9 cents a pas­sen­ger, one of the low­est in the na­tion.

Chicago’s two air­ports are the low­est of the 50 largest in the U.S., both av­er­ag­ing about 2 cents per orig­i­nat­ing pas­sen­ger.

Karen Pride, di­rec­tor of me­dia re­la­tions for the Chicago Depart­ment of Avi­a­tion, re­fuses to an­swer ques­tions about the city’s fees. But one pos­si­ble rea­son for the lower fees is that many fliers avoid taxis. Both of Chicago’s air­ports are di­rectly con­nected to the city’s sub­way sys­tem. Ac­cord­ing to data from the Chicago Tran­sit Author­ity, more than 18,000 peo­ple a day use the train to catch their flight. That’s nearly one out of ev­ery five pas­sen­gers, ac­cord­ing to AP cal­cu­la­tions, although the data also cap­tures any air­port em­ploy­ees who use the train.

In the age of $25 bag fees and ad­di­tional charges to sit to­gether with your loved ones, these ex­tra few dol­lars might not seem like much. But many fliers are just sick of be­ing charged for ev­ery lit­tle ser­vice, in­clud­ing get­ting a taxi home.

“For them to just tack on a charge like that is kind of adding in­sult to in­jury,” says Lee Joseph, a flier from Port­land, Ore­gon. “It’s like kick­ing peo­ple while they’re down.”

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A driver helps a pas­sen­ger with his be­long­ings while he and other taxis queue up out­side the ar­rivals area at LaGuardia Air­port in New York. Air­ports across the coun­try add sur­charges of up to $5 a ride, typ­i­cally passed di­rectly on to trav­el­ers, for trips orig­i­nat­ing at their curbs.

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