Is It Worth It To Pick Up An Airport Permit for Uber?

A sign at an airport terminal

There’s one question that keeps popping up in the rideshare community among drivers who work for Uber and Lyft: are airport permits worth it?

It’s not a simple question to answer because it depends on a variety of different things.

  • How close do you live to the nearest airport?
  • Do you live in a place where there are lots of airport pick-ups or drop offs?
  • Do you make that much money making airport trips as an Uber driver or Lyft driver?
  • Are you required to obtain a permit?

Some airports don’t require them at all. Instead, they have a specific set of guidelines in place that all rideshare drivers must abide by. Others, like the Minneapolis airport, have strict rules regarding rideshare drivers and permits.

To make sure you are aligned with your local airport rules for rideshare drivers, see the official airport guides for Uber and Lyft below:

For the rideshare drivers that are required to obtain an airport permit, pay close attention.

Some airport rules state that rideshare drivers can face a hefty fine if caught driving without one. This goes for international airports and smaller regional ones, too.

It doesn’t even matter if you’re picking up or dropping off. If an airport official catches you driving through the terminal – and it’s required that you have one – they may ask to see your permit.

If you don’t have one, you could be facing hundreds of dollars in fines, which would ruin anyone’s day.


Who Should Get an Airport Permit?

First thing’s first: determine if your local airport requires you to apply for and possess an airport permit.

If you don’t need one, familiarize yourself with the rules, designated waiting areas, and other important regulations that drivers need to know in order to avoid being fined.

If you do need an airport permit, regardless of how many trips you make to the airport on a regular basis, you should get one.

If you’re in a small town where the nearest airport is hours away, it may not seem like getting one would be worth it. However, the last thing you want to do is to get yourself into a situation where you regret not getting one – like if you were to get asked by an airport official to show your permit.

In major cities, people are always heading to and from the airport – especially tourists flying in and out. If you live in a big city, it would be crazy not to get one since the likelihood of you going to the airport regularly is high.

There’s nothing worse than having to turn down a ride request (especially if you’re not busy) because you don’t want to risk getting caught without a permit.

Imagine this scenario: you get a ride request at 5:00 a.m. It’s your first and only foreseeable right for the next hour. You don’t know that the passenger is heading to the airport. You see them get into your car with luggage, ask them where they’re going, and they tell you the airport name and terminal number.

If you don’t have a permit, what do you do?

Without a permit, the best thing to do at that moment is to cancel the ride and explain to the passenger that you don’t have a permit to drive at the airport.

This results in a complete waste of time for you and your would-be passenger. And as a driver, it’s your job to get people where they want to be. If you can’t complete that job, what’s the point? That’s why you should always have an airport permit if your local airport requires one, even if you only drive part time.

The fact is, airport authorities around the country are cracking down on Uber and Lyft drivers without permits. It happens every day, and it seems to be occurring more frequently.

What Does an Airport Permit Get You?

One thing it won’t get you is a citation or a fine. That’s the upside.

The airports that require rideshare drivers to possess a permit absolutely need to have one. No questions asked.

It may seem like a nuisance, but it’s far better than having to pay a fine. To put it simply, having an airport permit grants you peace of mind. Not only will you not have to worry about making unauthorized trips to the airport, but you can drive freely not worrying about canceling rides, receiving bad ratings, and letting your passengers down.

Despite this, if you talk to drivers with airport permits that have spent time in the airport queue, you’ll hear over and over again how frustrating the system is.

Many airports have a rideshare parking lot, such as the TNC parking lot at IAH and HOU, where drivers can wait in line to pick up the next call that comes in. In some cases, it could take 10 or 15 minutes for a ride request to come in.

So if you’re 20th in line at the pickup zone near ground transportation, you could be sitting there for hours! And, when you get to the front of the queue, you might get stuck with a passenger who only needs to go five miles away.

It doesn’t seem like the best way to maximize your time.

In some cases, you’re better off heading back to the city and taking short, quick ride requests around town. Sitting and waiting for one potentially significant fare isn’t worth the time.

So, is it worth it?

The short answer is: yes. As of right now, there is no way to guarantee that you can avoid accepting ride requests going to the airport, so it’s best to veer on the safe side and make sure you’re abiding by the rules — whatever those may be.

How Do I Apply For an Airport Permit

Unfortunately, there is no blanket process to apply for an airport permit. Each airport has its own rules and regulations for rideshare drivers. It’s best to contact your local airport, or check out the guides above, to confirm the process to avoid any confusion.

To find your specific airport’s rules quickly, Google “[insert name of airport here] Uber/Lyft rules”, which should guide you in the right direction.

If your local airport requires you to have a permit, you will likely have to take a test online and, for some airports, pay a fee.

Once you pass your test, it typically takes several weeks for your application to be processed and for your permit form to be sent in the mail.

Is the extra trouble worth it?  

The odds are pretty low that you would get stopped and be served with a fine, yet the fines are much, much higher than any fare you would ever make.

How Much Do Drivers Make Completing Airport Trip?

Does driving to and from the airport on a regular basis make you that much money? If you’ve done airport rides in the past, think about what you’ve earned.

Do you make a little bit of money but complete many trips? Do you do infrequent rides in which you make a lot of money?

Is the airport your go-to spot where you know that you can always pick up a ride request or two?

Regardless of how much you make or how often you do airport pickups and drop-offs, having a permit is a good idea. It’s best to have one if you need one, even if you only do one airport ride here and there.

The money you make on the occasional airport ride won’t justify having to pay a hefty fine if you get caught at the airport without the required permit.

So it’s always better to have one. Be on the safe side.

Make sure you have a valid driver’s license (which you would need anyway to be an active driver), take the airport permit test online, pay the fee if required, and cover yourself so that you don’t have to turn down airport rides.

Don’t allow an entire week’s profits to be wiped away by getting slapped with a fine for driving at the airport.

Do what you need to do to protect yourself and put yourself in a position where you can accept any ride going anywhere at any time.

How to Make the Airport Work For You

Sitting in an airport queue line can take you hours to get one ride. And that’s not the best way to maximize profits.

But working the airport crowd doesn’t mean just picking up rides from passengers that just landed — it also includes dropping riders off when they’re rushing to board a flight.

So rather than sit in a lengthy queue without the guarantee of a ride, think about the airport as just another destination. It’s a place you drop people off.

You don’t have to hang out there all day. You don’t have to waste an hour sitting in a lot only to get one trip that might be a short ride anyway.

Treat it as just another drop-off point, and you’ll be in good shape. The fact is, unless you’re sitting at the airport, you won’t get any ride requests for airport pick-ups.

Other drivers will be there (they always are), and they’ll be the ones that get those ride requests. But what you don’t want to do is limit yourself to where you can drop a passenger off.

At some airports, there is a second queue where drivers already in the terminal get precedence over drivers that are in the queue parking lot. So when you drop someone off, drive through the terminals for 10 minutes or so.

You might get lucky and be able to pick up a ride leaving the airport before you go. As a rideshare driver, you don’t know your drop-off location until you pick your rider up.

And the last thing you want to do is have to cancel a ride because someone needs to go to the airport and you’re not permitted to go there.

Having that permit is one more way to prevent a problem. It’s a way to avoid an awkward situation with a passenger. It also increases your earning potential. And that’s what driving for Uber or Lyft is all about.

The takeaway is this: it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to airport trips. Take the test online and apply for your airport permit.

Without it, you can either turn down rides and turn riders away or run the risk of doing the ride and getting a hefty fine.

If you live close to an airport or live in a big city, an airport permit is essential. Without it, you’re only limiting your earning potential or putting yourself at risk should you choose to do the ride without a permit.

Sitting at the airport waiting for a ride isn’t usually the best way to maximize your time.

But if you need a permit (and have one!), you can do drop offs and maybe even snag a passenger on your way out of the terminal.

Uber and Lyft drivers know all too well that one good ride can make or break your day.

If that ride means you have to drive someone 30 miles to or from the airport, then prepare yourself and have the proper permit to do so legally.

If no permit is required, make sure you know the ins and outs of your airport’s rules so you avoid a citation at all costs.

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