The Pricey Reason You Should Reconsider Getting An Uber From This American Airport

Getting a ride to and from the airport is stressful enough as it is, and in certain places, it has also become expensive, especially when opting for rideshare apps while traveling like Uber and Lyft. In recent years, airports have even begun imposing additional charges on passengers opting for these services. For instance, travelers booking rides from the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta are expected to pay an extra $3.85 on top of their fare, while those coming from the Los Angeles International Airport are required to shell out $4. 

These fees may be minuscule to some, but it looks like they are bound to hike up even more following Florida's Orlando International Airport's (MCO) decision to introduce a whopping 20% increase, as reported by local outlet Fox 35 Orlando. In 2023 alone, MCO boosted its airport pickup rates for ride-hailing services not just once, but three separate times. What used to be a $5.80 fee turned into $6.35 in August and then increased to $7 in October, which Uber confirmed is the highest rate in the country. 

What's more, these fees are still subject to change and may increase even further at a moment's notice. "This is an issue that was negotiated and resolved when the operating agreement was signed in July of 2017, and we are not renegotiating it," Greater Orlando Aviation Authority CEO Kevin Thibault explained. "These fee increases were already approved by the authority board in September 2022 and there is no reason to bring them back to the board."

What will MCO do with the pickup fees?

While it's easy to blame Uber for charging more, the rideshare company only functions as the middleman and subsequently transfers the additional fees to the airport. In a statement, an MCO spokesperson clarified that the surcharges will be put to good use, particularly in maintaining and improving airport facilities. "Commercial ground transportation activity annually has steadily risen, incurring additional operational and maintenance costs for the Authority," they declared, per WESH. "The fee increases will help the Authority to offset costs associated with ground transportation operations and continue to provide passengers choices at MCO."

Adding to the frustration, MCO has also become notorious for its long rideshare wait times. A ClickOrlando report detailed how MCO restricted drivers to just two designated staging areas, one of which suffers from poor cellular reception. With Uber's geofencing technology compelling drivers to wait in these zones to join the pickup queue, they cannot stay elsewhere if they want passengers. This setup inevitably leads to prolonged waiting periods for riders and drivers alike.

"The city of Orlando asked Uber to make operational changes preventing Uber drivers from joining the airport queue from areas outside of MCO, which means that more drivers will have to wait within the airport's property to receive airport trips," Uber spokesperson Javi Correoso pointed out. "Given that consumers are paying a $7 pickup fee, the highest in the country, the Orlando airport needs to invest in making the rideshare experience safe and efficient for drivers and riders."

Is there a way to bypass airport pickup fees?

If you're hesitant to pay MCO's steep airport pickup fee, or any pickup fee from any airport for that matter, a viral TikTok hack by user @nikhilslife argues that you can avoid paying simply by changing your pickup location to another nearby spot. This apparently not only saves you from forking over the airport surcharge but also potentially helps you dodge ride-share price surges during peak hours. However, it can be an impractical solution for those with tons of luggage in tow, as it requires moving everything to a different area.

Alternatively, you can travelerblog the other available transportation options. Take advantage of your hotel's complimentary airport shuttle if there is one, or in MCO's case, you can try taking the local bus, which starts at $2 per person, or shuttle vans, which charge anywhere from $15 to $29 each way, depending on the dropoff area. Taxis are always an option, but you'll fork out up to $115 if you're looking to head to distant destinations like Port Canaveral. 

If you want to try Florida's SunRail, there are also buses available to take you to the nearest station, but it should be noted that the train only runs from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on weekdays. Or perhaps you can just sweet-talk a family member or friend into picking you up from the airport. At least there are no surprise fees there (we hope).