Airport Trips

Airports – Blessing or Trap?

The airports are always very tricky propositions for Uber and Lyft drivers.  They can be a goldmine or they can be a trap that sinks your hourly earnings average to new lows for the day.

Every airport is different.  But they all have a few things in common – like “InstaPing” and the queue.

If you live far from the airport in an area near or where a lot of business people live – you could potentially get great long trips to the airport early in the mornings.

The Pick-Up Trap

Don’t just sit in the airport queue all day. When you drop someone off at the airport – you have a big decision to make.  Should you stay or should you go?

No one wants to drive back empty – so there’s always a big temptation to stay and wait for a trip.  But, the downside of that is that you could end up waiting for several hours!  Each airport is different and when Uber and Lyft make changes the airports will change again.

But most guys in a city have a good feel for how long the typical waits are.  So, once you get a feel for that – then you can make a more informed decision about whether you should wait for a trip or head back to town.

Remember this, if you wait three hours for a trip and get a trip that earns you $20 – you have to divide the $20 by the three hours you waited, plus the time the trip actually took in order to figure out your hourly earnings.  A lot of airport trips in the United States during rush hour can easily take an hour or more.  So, let’s say this trip takes you 45 minutes.  That would bring you an average hourly earnings rate for the last 3.75 hours of just $5.33.

I’m using a $20 figure here for the estimate of how much you’ll make on the average airport trip.  If that number is different in your city, then use whatever number works in your city.  But use that number and do this calculation.  Then, ask yourself – are you better off just leaving the airport and picking up some local trips nearby?  Or waiting, possibly several hours, for a trip?

In the video, Sam tells the story of how the airport queue wasn’t favorable to him one time.  He had just dropped a family off at the airport and saw that if he went into the queue he’d be #5!  Well, of course he decided to go into the queue!  Who wouldn’t if there are only four cars in front of you?

He waited for a while before he was finally down to #1.  When he got to #1 he thought now it wouldn’t be long.  But he ended up waiting another 30 minutes – at #1 – before he got a call!

That’s how unpredictable the airport queues can be.  You really never know.  I got down to #1 one time and ended up waiting an hour and a half for a call.

Checking the Flight Schedules

Sam’s lesson in all of this is to always look at the flight schedules for the airport you’ll be driving from.  He recommends using FlightAware.  If you see a lot of flights are coming in in the next half hour – then you should probably go into the queue.  If you don’t check the schedules – you’ll be literally flying blind.  And you could end up sitting there for several hours before you get a trip!

Flight schedules though are pretty consistent usually.  Once you have a feel for your local airport you may feel like you don’t have to check the schedules every time.  But, so many things can disrupt the regular schedules that it’s still a good idea to check.

However, there are some things you won’t need to know the flight schedules for. For instance, here in the New York area, we have three major airports.  Each one is different.  An old time limo driver told me one time, laughing as he told the story, that a new Uber driver had complained to him that when he went to LaGuardia looking for trips – he never got anything.

The old time driver asked him what time of day he was going and he said 7:00 in the morning.  The old time driver started cracking up laughing!  Because he and all veteran drivers knew that there are no flights coming into LaGuardia at that time!  There are a lot of flights departing but not that many coming in.

He told the new Uber driver – if you want to hang out at LaGuardia – don’t bother doing it until after 10:00 a.m.

At Newark airport it’s a little different.  They regularly have a lot of incoming flights – overnight flights from California and India that arrive around 5:00 a.m.  But between about 7:00 a.m. and noon Newark won’t be that busy.

If you know these quirks about your local airport(s) it will save you a lot of trouble.


More than a year ago Uber introduced a new variable to the airport queues that we call InstaPing.  It happens when a driver drops someone off at the airport.  For ten minutes after his drop off – if he stays in the airport’s terminal area – he can get an instant ping if a passenger happens to be looking for an Uber at that time.

The key lesson is – when you drop someone off – WAIT in the terminal area for 10 minutes.  Do not head for the queue.  If you go to the queue, you could be waiting for several hours.  However, if you stay in the terminal area, you will very likely get a trip out within that 10-minute period.  If you don’t – then you need to decide whether to stay or go.  Then you probably should check with the flight schedules to help you make that decision.

Another great piece of advice Sam gives is when he recommends only going to the queue if there are 20 or fewer cars in it.  More than 20 for him in Minneapolis, yields too long of a wait.  You’ll have to test this with your airport to see what works best for you.  But we recommend having a cutoff number in your mind.  And when there are more cars than your cutoff allows – don’t even think twice – just leave.

And don’t forget that Uber and Lyft are so well-known now that you can get a call just outside the airport area.  You probably won’t have to go back to the central city to start working again.  You may not get a call that takes you in that direction, but just think about this… any call you get will earn you more than you’d be making just sitting in the airport parking lot!

InstaPing’s Negative Effects on the Queue

The downside of InstaPing is that if you’re in the queue – you’re going to be there a lot longer than you would have been before they had InstaPing.  That’s because for every, let’s say, 5 calls Uber gets from the airport, 4 of them will probably go to guys who are already in the terminal.  In the days before InstaPing – all five of those calls would have gone to guys in the queue.  But now, it takes 20 passenger calls (rough estimate) for every four cars that will be utilized from the queue.  In other words, 20 passengers now roughly equates the utilization of only four cars waiting in the queue.

Be sure to figure that into your decision on whether you should go to the queue or not.

In the end, the best thing to do is experiment a bit with your local airport – at different times of day and night – and see what works best for you.

Video Transcription:

This is one of the most important videos that I can film, and that’s, how do you utilize and maximize the airport? Airport trips can be one of the most of the blessed things for a rideshare driver or it can be a trap. And it was a trap for me for a long time.

Now, first of all, let me make clear. Every airport is different. So look up, Google your local airport regulations, okay? And also notice that if you stick around and you don’t have the proper licensing in the geofence, you will get ticketed and you won’t get pings, okay? So that is something that we talk about in another course, but very important to keep that.

Now, how do we maximize it? Well, if your airport is further away from where you live, that’s a really good thing, so you can get long pick-ups there. But the…so going to the airport is awesome and easy and oftentimes in the morning, those are prime times.

But the trap where people fall into is picking people up from the airport. There is a lot of drivers out there who are creative, who are thinking critically like you are, who is watching this video, and they just sit around in the airport. Uber, and in some cities, Lyft has something called the queue.

The queue is basically, the first one there, they put you in this kind of digital line, and basically, whoever needs the ride, the next person gets it. I’ve seen the queue up to a 100 people, 96 people in Minneapolis, St. Paul. We’re not even the big market.

Ninety-six people sitting around, I have no idea where they are hiding, because they are not supposed to be there, waiting around for a ride. And that is a waste of your time. Do not be that guy.

Unless you’re a person who is full-time and you are happy to ride in your…sit in your car. Maybe you’re working on a master’s degree online that you can work in your car, man, that is awesome. Do that. Now, if you are just trying to make money when you work and you don’t want to sit around, don’t do that.

Now, a while ago, I dropped someone off and I was like, “Man, I drove all the way over to the airport, I don’t want to go back.” And I’m not very far from the airport, but some of you, taking a trip out the airport is a long trip and going back empty miles is not worth it.

So you got to figure out, should you drive back or should you wait? Now, in this certain circumstance, I’m thinking in my mind, I dropped this family off and I waited around. And I looked at the queue and I was in the top five.

And I was like, “That is awesome, I’m in the top five queue, I’m going to get one.” My general rule of thumb is that if there is 20 people or less in the queue, I’m going to wait around, okay? And I often get Lyft rides more than Uber, and you can play around with them and have both apps and figure out which one will get you the best results. But 20 or less is usually my rule of thumb.

[In] this case, I was waiting around for a while and I finally got to number one in the queue. I’m like, “I’m one in the queue, this is awesome.” Thirty minutes later, I finally get a ring. Thirty minutes later, I finally get a ring. It was terrible. What did I mess up?

Now, I did not know the flight schedule. So this is what I’ll say, get the app Flight Aware, and there are many other flight apps that are free. Look at your Minneapolis or wherever you are at, LAX, look at your flight schedule, and right when you drop your passenger off, don’t leave, stay there.

Don’t drive on the cap. Look at the app, sitting, and look at the flight schedule. How many flights have come in or are about to come in? So for me, the rule of thumb, for me, is if three flights have just landed or are about to land, I’m going to wait. It’s worth the wait and then I can do it.

And sometimes, it’s like nine, and I know I may get a ride. Especially if I can check the queue and I look at the Lyft passenger app and see how many drivers are sitting around waiting, awesome. Okay?

So be strategic with that. Don’t wait around because you can sit there for 30 minutes and waste time and that is destroying your hourly average. Be strategic and only stay there when that is happening.

Also maybe you’re sitting at home and you’re like, “Oh, I need to get some pickups.” Look at the flight schedule, if you know that there are about 10 flights are about to come in 30 minutes, head to the airport.

You can get a good ride, and more often than not, those rides are going to be long and profitable. So, maximize the airport and don’t be a victim of it.


Related Content From  

Leave a Comment