Fliers using the relatively cheap ride-hailing services could mean that fewer would pay for airport parking and rental car services —two significant sources of airport revenue. (File photo)

Airports feared losing revenue to Uber and Lyft. Here’s what happened.

Ride-hailing could mean few would pay for parking and rental cars

Airport officials were understandably nervous when Uber and Lyft drivers began pulling up at terminals across the country a few years ago.

After all, more fliers using the relatively cheap ride-hailing services could mean that fewer would pay for airport parking and rental car services —two significant sources of airport revenue.

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“At the time, all we knew was there was some uncertainty around it,” said Ryan Yakubik, deputy executive director and chief financial officer at Los Angeles International Airport.

But a look at Southern California airport budgets shows that the move to let ride-hailing services pick up and drop off passengers —and pay a fee to do it —was not the financial disaster some had feared.

Technology-amped, gig-economy start-ups have disrupted many industries in the last decade but most of the airports in the region appear to be either unfazed or bolstered by the changes.

And a good thing, too. Although airports are generally self-supporting, a sharp decline in revenue would probably be resolved by increasing other fees, which could get passed along to travelers.

At Los Angeles International Airport —one of the nation’s busiest airports —ride-hailing service drivers pay a $4 fee for every passenger picked up or dropped off at the airport curb. Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies are charged fees of varying amounts by other local airports. Such fees typically are passed along to passengers as a surcharge.

Ride-hailing fees at LAX generated $44.3 million in fiscal 2018 and $33.7 million in fiscal 2017, up sharply from the $8.9 million in fiscal 2016, when ride-hailing services were prohibited from dropping off and picking up passengers in the same trip.

The hike in ride-hailing money more than made up for the decline in revenue from rental car companies, which dropped to $84.1 million in fiscal 2018 from $87.4 million in fiscal 2017, according to LAX budget records.

LAX parking revenue totaled $96.7 million in fiscal 2018, unchanged from 2017, which LAX officials attribute in part to closure of sections of a parking lot for a $4.9-billion construction project connecting the central terminal with a car rental facility, a ground transportation hub and a station on the Metro Crenshaw Line.

“The fact that people are taking Uber and Lyft in such volume is a good thing,” said Justin Erbacci, LAX chief innovation and technology officer. “It shows people like to use them to get to the airport.”

Most of Southern California’s smaller airports have thrived since the introduction of ride-hailing services.

Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times through the Associated Press

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