Uber rolls out new airport services, including reserve pickup

Oct 6, 2021

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Uber is adding a variety of in-app experiences for use at airports around the world in response to ongoing increased travel demand this year, the ride-hailing company told TPG earlier this week.

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“From long overdue vacations to wedding season and more, we’ve seen huge spikes in travel with more than twice as many people flying today than last year,” Uber said in a statement. “But even as more people are flying, the airport experience can feel more stressful than before. To help alleviate that uncertainty, Uber is launching new products and features that will help make airport travel smoother and simpler than ever before.”

(Photo provided by Uber)

Among the new rollouts will be Uber Reserve at airports, which will allow users at more than 20 airports across the U.S., including in Chicago (ORD/MDW), Nashville (BNA), New York (JFK/LGA) and Washington, D.C. (DCA/IAD), to book an Uber Black or Black SUV up to 30 days in advance of arrival. After a year and a half of travelers reporting longer-than-usual wait times and exorbitant fares for ride-hailing services and taxis at airports, Uber Reserve aims to address some of the fallout of a pandemic-induced labor shortage among gig workers.

“If you need extra time beyond the 60 minutes of complimentary wait time, we recommend messaging the driver in app to communicate additional time needs,” a spokesperson from Uber told me via email.

To help alleviate the problems, Uber has introduced its “Ready When You Are” feature, which will allow flyers to request to be picked up at a specific time upon landing at their final destination’s airport, including in 10 or 20 minutes, or as soon as possible. This feature is currently being tested at six airports in the U.S. and Canada (Nashville, New Orleans, Portland, Philadelphia, Seattle and Toronto), with more airports expected to be added in early 2022. The feature is currently available on Android and will be on iOS in November.

Read more: $100-plus fares and 2-hour wait times: What the Uber and Lyft driver shortage means for you

(GIF provided by Uber)

In the case of flight delays, Uber says they’ll “automatically adjust your reservation based on the flight information you provide, so your driver is ready and waiting at the airport when your flight lands—whether it’s on time, early or delayed.” Uber did not specify the rider-driver protocol should unforeseen circumstances arise not communicated by their tracking service.

“We work with OAG … to help coordinate flight tracking for riders and drivers. Within 24 hours of a flight’s landing, customers will be notified in the Uber app of any delays or potential early arrivals,” the spokesperson said. “Our technology then adjusts the reservation pickup time automatically and informs the driver. If there are multiple frequent changes to the flight landing time, we’ve built a notification logic to ensure you are not bombarded with in-app pings.”

As is the case with non-airport Uber service, Uber says drivers will wait for up to 60 minutes at no additional charge, to account for travelers gathering their bags, freshening up, etc. Uber did not specify what additional charges may occur should you hold a driver for more than an hour.

Related: My experience with Kyte, the rental car startup that brings the car to you

Curbside pickup is currently available at more than 15 airports in the U.S., Canada, London, India and Saudi Arabia. Although Uber claims “your driver will conveniently wait for you curbside so you can step off the plane and into your ride,” all ride-hailing service pickups are still restricted to designated areas within airports as indicated on the app. Uber intends to expedite the sometimes confusing curbside pickup process via “a new feature that helps match curbside riders with drivers more quickly so riders who request a car once they’re curbside have a quick and seamless experience.”

Mobile ordering for pickup at select restaurants at North American airports will also be available via Uber Eats throughout the U.S. and Canada, where it is currently piloting at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport (YYZ).

(Photo provided by Uber)

Featured image provided by Uber.

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