Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wellington Airport strikes deal with Uber, creating pick-up area and charging fees

The international passenger terminal at Wellington Airport. On Tuesday the company, majority owned by Infratil, became the first airport in New Zealand to reach a deal to allow Uber to operate on its property.
Wellington has become the first airport in New Zealand to strike a deal with ride-sharing company Uber.

From Friday Uber's drivers will be able to pick up and drop off riders, freed from the lingering threat of being trespassed.

Users can immediately begin being dropped off in the public drop-off zone outside the airport check-in area. A dedicated pick-up zone for Uber drivers will be opened on the ground floor on September 1.

Ride sharing app Uber allows passengers to order and pay for rides using their mobile phones. It has become a by-word for digital disruption of major industries.
The deal is hardly unvarnished good news for users of the service, who will effectively now face a price rise for rides which start or end at the airport.

Uber will collect a $3 fee for all pick-ups and drop-offs on airport property on behalf of the airport company, starting on Friday.

When Uber launched in Christchurch, taxi drivers staged a protest outside the offices of MP Nicky Wagner.

For some, the deal may seem confusing, as users of the technology company, which has become a by-word for digital disruption, clearly already use the service at the airport.

But at airports in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch - the only cities in which Uber operates in New Zealand - the practice is officially forbidden.

Passengers are often forced to walk off airport property, or at least to parts of the site which are less closely monitored, to be picked up, otherwise the drivers risk fines or being barred from the property.

Airports have blamed transport regulations for the impasse, although opposition from taxi companies - which are understood to collectively pay millions of dollars for defined ranks near terminal exits - has also featured in the argument.

In a statement, Wellington Airport and Uber said the agreement followed the passing of the Land Transport Amendment Bill earlier in August, which recognises and effectively legitimises elements of ride-sharing services for the first time.

Wellington Airport spokesman Greg Thomas said the deal was the first of its kind in New Zealand.

"We're pleased to reach agreement with Uber and be the first airport to add ride-sharing to our ground transport services," Thomas said.

"This is another example of how we are making transport to and from the airport easy and convenient for travellers.

Uber has long claimed that it was willing to pay to use airport property, however its previous refusal to adhere to some transport regulations has meant airports risked breaching the duty of care the companies legally owed passengers.

The refusal of the San Francisco headquartered technology company to fall into line strained relations with the Government.

At one point, Transport Minister Simon Bridges raised the prospect that the company could effectively be banned if it continued to refuse to give assurances around passenger safety.

Uber has hailed the deal with Wellington.

"This is a win for consumer choice, tourism and the Wellington travelling public," Uber New Zealand general manager Richard Menzies said.

The deal sparked an angry reaction from one of New Zealand's leading taxi companies.

Bob Wilkinson, chief executive of Blue Bubble Taxis (which operates as Combined Taxis in Wellington) said he was "outraged" by the news.

"They [Wellington Airport] are prepared to put a company into the airport that isn't even yet legal," Wilkinson said, referring to Uber's past flouting of NZTA regulations.

Wellington's deal was likely to lead to similar deals in Auckland and Christchurch, Wilkinson said.

"Airports are mainly concerned about providing returns for their shareholders, and if this is a potential source of revenue, they must look at it.

"Wellington's broken rank, decided to go for it, the other two will probably follow suit."

The deal marks a considerable change in Uber's relationship with Wellington Airport, which is jointly owned by Infratil and the Wellington City Council.

In early 2016 airport chief executive Steve Sanderson said Uber drivers who repeatedly picked up passengers at the airport could be trespassed, even as he claimed to be close to reaching a deal to allow Uber to operate at the airport.

This would mean a driver would need the express permission of Sanderson to enter airport property, even as a passenger. The threat was never exercised.

In mid-2016 security guards were employed to monitor for Uber drivers using the airport, leading to claims of heavy-handed treatment.

Passengers wanting to use the service tended to request rides from the nearby Z Energy station which, while still being on airport property, attracted less attention.

By April 2017, Wellington Airport had blocked Uber from its free wifi network, making it harder for international passengers to access the service on arrival in the capital.

But in recent weeks Uber drivers have indicated the airport had dropped its monitoring and they were routinely picking up and dropping off passengers outside the entrance to the airport terminal.

Thomas said on Tuesday that Uber has been removed from the list of apps blocked from its network "a while ago".


Meanwhile, back here at the O2 in Greenwich, round the corner from the TfL Riverwalk Building, Uber have been given a pick up waiting area....or as we call it, a rank


Anonymous said...

Well this week we have our first Knolwedge school close And this is the shape of things to and it will not be the first trust me KP only survived because a deal was struck with LTC the Knolwedge has not changed the last 20 years and over the last 6 years the number of students has dropped unbelievably to an all time low yet uber are still here and our orgs have done absolutely nothing it seems people don't care how they get home as long as it's cheep I've only got a few more years until I retire and I hate to say this but I can't see it getting any better due to the lack of representation for our orgs we have had demos nothing has come of any of them so where do we stand well in very deep water unless we do something even if we priced match uber for 6 months it would hurt them But we have become so set in our ways that it would take an absolute miracle to save our trade now I know you will say we are still here but with a dwindling trade and not much young blood wanting to join our trade it's just a matter of time before we shut the doors god bless you all

Alan Wicker said...

whoever you are 5:31PM, unfortunately, I agree with EVERY word that you've written, but would add:

also, we have a regulator that is hell-bent on our annihilation

Anonymous said...

Yes Alan we do have a regulator we also have someone on the board but I just can't understand why the trade orgs have never taken them to court it's clear to me and everyone else I've spoken to uber have broken the law from day one thus trade need young fresh blood but I think now people just don't want to take all that time learning the Knolwedge knowing they might not have a job in a few years I pray I'm wrong really do