You may have noticed some uproar lately in local TV news reports about Uber service at the airport. Uber is the on-demand private ride service; it recently started doing business in Springfield.
There are several angles to this story you haven’t heard. This post will be long-winded so please bear with us. Let’s start with what’s being reported in local media: complaints from Uber drivers about the airport.
Uber drivers don’t like the temporary airport parking rules in place that their employer, corporate Uber, agreed to. Rather than taking their concerns to their employer, drivers are by-passing Uber and complaining directly to the media, and indirectly to the airport. Media then portrays Uber employees as being mistreated by the airport.
From the airport's point-of-view, this is a peculiar situation ...
We're currrently negotiating an operating agreement with corporate Uber which is located in San Francisco. When it’s done the agreement will spell out many things, including where Uber employees can operate on the airport, and how much Uber will pay the airport for doing business at the airport. As these corporate negotiations continue, the company's employees are trying to set the terms of the contract on their own.
The main concern Uber employees have concerns staging (staging is industry jargon for a parking area where drivers wait for fares). The airport has temporary rules in place that forbids Uber from staging on airport property (we expect this issue will be worked out in the operating agreement that is being negotiated).
Staging sounds simple enough, but at an airport it’s anything but. Bottom line: we currently don’t have any place to stage them.
Drivers have suggestions:
“Put us in the cell phone lot.” The cell phone lot is for airport customers. It’s too small for both.
“Build us a parking lot.” Who’s going to pay for it? The airport is not obligated to build you a parking lot.
“Put us in the bus/shuttle parking lot.” That lot is designed for busses and shuttles.
The bus/shuttle parking lot is off the table for another reason as well: that lot is right next to the lot where taxi cabs stage. Uber has asked us specifically not to stage its drivers next to cab drivers. Why? Because when cabs and Ubers are staged close to one another it’s not uncommon for brawls to break out. If this sounds far-fetched, do a Google news search on the subject.
Uber drivers have responded to the rules by staging on the side of roadways that are off airport property. This has prompted some to say that parking on the side of the road is unsafe. In response, drivers blame the airport.
Well, the airport is working with their employer to figure out a solution. We’re confident something will be worked out.
Okay, enough of the back story, let’s move on to another, but related subject: how things work at the airport.
Some think the airport has an obligation to build facilities for a business that wants to do business here. Here’s how it really works and why …
While the airport is owned by the city of Springfield, it does not receive tax revenue from the city. The airport is set up as an “enterprise fund,” meaning that it must pay its own way.
The airport gets funding from two basic sources:
The federal government. The feds send us money through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). FAA money comes mainly from fees on airline tickets, aviation fuel and cargo shipments.
The rest of our funding comes from revenue that the airport generates. This includes income from fees and rents charged to airlines, restaurants, rental car companies, gift shops, etc. To put it simply: any business that does business at the airport must pay for the privilege of doing so.
It’s not us making that bold faced statement. It’s the federal government. Any airport that receives federal funds must play by this rule. Why? The feds want airports to as self-sufficient as possible (click here for a deep dive into the subject).
So bring the last paragraph around to the current situation. If Uber wants a staging lot it will work with the airport to figure out a funding source to pay for it. The Uber corporation understands that airports can’t provide free services for the company. Yet, its employees, on their own, are demanding accommodation that the airport is not obliged to provide. If we do provide it, it will be part of a formal operating agreement between corporate Uber and the airport.