Uber willing to pay pickup fee to Puerto Rico international airport
SAN JUAN – Ride-hailing network Uber is willing to pay the operators of the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (LMM) a service charge to collect passengers, contrary to a statement by the president of Puerto Rico Tour Operators, Guides & Excursionists (Protge by its Spanish acronym) José Poupal, who said the negotiations between Uber and Aerostar are at a standstill.
“We cannot provide details of this specific negotiation. What we can assure is we are in favor of paying a charge as long as it is similar to what other services pay, as the law states,” the communications director for Uber’s Andean, Central American and Caribbean Region, Martha Castro, confirmed.
In fact, Uber said it pays fees at some airports similar to LMM and provided examples to emphasize that the company are willing to comply with the provisions approved in Public Service Commission (CSP by its initials in Spanish) regulations in force since early May.
“The charge varies by location, and aspects such as cost of living, size of airport should be considered, charges to other services should be taken into account. When compared with airports of a similar size, we can point out that at the San Antonio Texas airport, there is a charge of $1 per pickup and at a slightly larger airport such as Palm Beach International it is $2.50 per pickup,” the Uber official added.
Replying to questions by Caribbean Business about how the negotiations with Aerostar compares with other agreements the company has reached with other airport operators in terms of the pace of the process, Castro indicated she cannot confirm the time taken for this type of negotiation because it varies depending on the case.
“The only reason why a negotiation has not taken place is because they have definitely not reached an agreement on the cost of access. We have to start from the premise that we [tourist taxi, excursions and limousine operators] practically pay a large part of the payroll of the employees of Aerostar,” expressed the president of Protge at the beginning of the week.
Poupal also indicated that to compile reliable information, Uber seeks to be exempted from the $1 charge for each driver who arrives at the LMM in search of passengers. This “fee” will increase to $3 by the end of August.
“Everything related to the Uber fees is part of the confidential negotiations with Uber and at the moment we cannot discuss them,” Aerostar said in a statement, alluding to the existence of non-disclosure agreements between the parties.
Does LMM benefit with the arrival of ride-hailing companies?
While the popularity stateside of on-demand transportation providers such as Uber and Lyft is evident, it has had the effect of reducing airports’ revenue from reduced parking lot usage, as passengers are changing the way they arrive at the facilities to travel, according to a recent study published by the National Academies Press (NAP).
“Transportation Network Companies: Challenges and Opportunities for Airport Operators” finds that 59% of the airports surveyed resort to the so-called “Per-Trip Fee” only when they pick up passengers, a rate between $1 and $4.
This charge is especially important, because allowing transportation network companies (TNCs) to operate from an airport imposes on its operator the responsibility of hiring employees for pickup points, which increases operational expenses. According to the NAP study, the airports that have opened the doors to these companies have seen annual revenues ranging from $100,000 to $20 million from fee collections.
The study found that TNCs had signed agreements in 48 of the 72 airports surveyed, between 2015 and 2017, which reduced taxi trips 5% to 30%, a decrease that seems to increase with time. In addition, the number of customers using airport parking lots fell 5% to 10%.
How is Aerostar preparing for these changes? Does it foresee a reduction in airport personnel, Caribbean Business asked.
“We cannot react to what has happened in other jurisdictions. The data related to this matter are in the process of being compiled and are part of the negotiations that are in process,” the company stated.