Uber unable to operate at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport during week of SXSW

Jackie Wang

Days before the start of South By Southwest, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport officials said Uber will not be able to operate out of the airport during the festival next week.

Airport officials offered to form an agreement with two ride-hailing companies, Uber and Lyft, but Uber declined to accept, according to airport spokesman Jim Halbrook. 

“We offered both Lyft and Uber the same deal,” Halbrook said. “Lyft accepted it, and Uber has declined. I’m not in the negotiations, but what I am told from my business partners is they declined, and they didn’t give a reason.”

The agreement mandated the ride-hailing companies give 10 percent of their gross revenue to the airport, Halbrook said.

“That means, at a $25 fare, the airport gets $2.50,” Halbrook said. “The airport is a revenue generating facility. We generate our own revenue to pay for operating costs like water or electricity or road repairs and future improvements. When we build a new piece of terminal, we may get a grant, but we draw a lot out of our capital fund.”

All businesses working at the airport must have a formal agreement with the airport, according to Halbrook.

“Anybody doing business at the airport, whether they be a restaurant or ground transportation provider, has an agreement to do business at the airport,” Halbrook said. “That’s a city ordinance.”

Airport officials have previously worked with Uber and Lyft to reach an agreement about their services at the airport since the two ride-hailing companies were permitted to operate in Austin last October. The likelihood of Uber reaching an agreement in time to operate at the airport during SXSW is marginal, according to Halbrook.

“If they come back with something, we could potentially continue to [negotiate],” Halbrook said. “We’ve kind of got what we want and how we like to do it.”

Uber drivers may receive citations if they operate at the airport. Uber issued a statement Tuesday to say it is working to come to a solution.

“With service in 292 cities in 55 countries, visitors arriving at Austin Bergstrom [sic] International Airport expect to be able to request a ride from the airport using the Uber app,” the statement said. “We are currently working with the city on a solution to ensure the tens of thousands of visitors arriving in Austin for SXSW have access to an affordable, hassle-free ride after they touch down. We look forward to working together to resolve this issue in the immediate future.”