Under threat of trespass, Uber close to deal with Wellington Airport

Wellington Airport's international passenger terminal.  

Wellington Airport is close to reaching a deal to allow Uber drivers to pick up passengers, which could change the payment terms for all taxi services to the airport.

Currently Uber, a private hire service where passengers order cars on mobile phones, is not meant to pick up passengers from the airport, as doing so avoids paying the $5 fee faced by regular taxis.

Steve Sanderson, chief executive of Wellington Airport has threatened to trespass drivers who breach the rules

Uber drivers have been using the drop off area at Wellington Airport to pick up passengers without paying a fee to the ...

 

It was only fair that Uber paid the same as taxis, as they were operating a commercial business on private property, Sanderson said.

"We want all operators who operate transport services out of the airport to all be on a level playing field," Sanderson said, adding that he expected to secure an agreement within Uber within a month.

"Taxis and Uber will pay the same amount."

While currently taxis are only charged fees for picking up passengers at the airport, Sanderson confirmed that this could be replaced with a split between pick-ups and drop-offs.

"We are looking at other options of making the fees in the airport more equal to arrivals and departures."

So far no Uber drivers has been trespassed from the airport, and Sanderson believed that Uber drivers were now complying with the rules.

"They understand they are operating on a private property and they've certainly told all their drivers they're not allowed to pick up at the airport, and our experience is that's being adhered to now."

Any driver who was trespassed would face needing the express permission of the airport's chief executive if they ever wanted to enter the property, including to catch a flight.

The airport's jurisdiction typically extends to those passing through the security gates at the entrance to the car park.

But one airport source noted that the Z Energy service station just outside the airport - a walk of only around two minutes from terminal entrance - was also on land owned by the airport.

Should it become an unofficial Uber hub the airport could also threaten Uber with trespass there.

Uber declined to comment. The company is also in negotiations with Auckland and Christchurch airports.

A spokesman for Auckland Airport said that while the company "welcomed Uber coming on board" to increase choice, it needed to ensure it did so on an even playing field, including in terms of New Zealand Transport Authority regulations. A deal is not expected in the immediate future.

"We'll continue to talk to Uber about their potential to operate from the airport."

Taxi Federation acting executive director Tim Reddish said Uber and other similar services should pay the same as taxis, and this should also take into account the money taxis paid to wait outside the baggage reclaim area.

"Any deal struck with Uber has to be on an even playing field basis," Reddish said.

"The taxi companies that have a presence at the airport tender significant money for that, and that determines that Uber should be paying the same sort of money."

 - Stuff

HAMISH RUTHERFORD