Uber airport tolls: are they legal?

Uber Illegal Airport TollsIf you’ve taken an Uber to the airport you may have noticed an extra line in your bill for an “Airport Toll.”

In this example, I was charged a $4.00 “SFO Airport Fee Toll” to get from my apartment to San Francisco International Airport using an UberX.

UberX, if you’re not familiar with Uber’s confusing array of similarly-named options, is basically the option to call an everyday Joe/Jane driving you in his/her personal car, much like Lyft or Sidecar.

Uber Illegal Airport Toll Fees

Uber Illegal Airport Toll Fees

Despite Uber calling the fee a toll, I can’t find any evidence that my Uber driver was liable for paying any sort of toll to SFO or any other authority. It’s a well known fact that Uber, along with competitors Lyft and Sidecar, operates with impunity at SFO, thumbing its nose at regulators. I highly doubt Uber is paying any sort of tolls at SFO if its drivers are getting arrested for operating illegally.

I clicked on the [?] question mark beside the toll charge in my invoice and it led me to a rather cryptic explanation of what exactly the toll is supposed to be. The text is below, but here’s a screenshot in case the page gets taken down.

If your driver pays a toll during your trip—or if your drop-off location is outside the city limits and a toll is required to return to the city—then the price of the toll will be added to your fare.

In these situations, Uber returns 100% of the toll fee to drivers to ensure that they’re fully reimbursed for the additional cost.

You might also notice an Airport Fee Toll on your receipt. In select cities, there may be a nominal fee to compensate drivers for any airport fees they are charged as part of your trip. If you think you might have been charged this fee incorrectly, please let us know. You can contact your local community manager at: t.uber.com/support

So if the driver has to pay a toll, Uber passes the 100% of the money over to them. But what about when there’s no toll to pay? Uber charges you to compensate the driver anyways?

SFO does charge taxis a toll of $2.00 when they exit through designated gates at the taxi queue, but only for taxis departing SFO, not when dropping off passengers. But my UberX driver didn’t have to pass through a gate because he dropped me off at the regular passenger drop-off zone the same way my mom would have dropped me off. In fact, when taking an UberX (or a Lyft) to SFO, good passenger etiquette is to sit in the front passenger seat so as to make it look like you’re friends with the driver and disguise the fact that it’s a paid ride.

My question then is why Uber charges airport passengers a toll. It’s not a toll because neither they nor their drivers are required to pay it. If they want to charge an extra fee for airport drop-offs because their drivers occasionally get arrested or fined and they have to bail them out, then call it that. Or if it’s a surcharge to compensate drivers for returning to the city with an empty car, call it that. But don’t use the term “toll.”

My tweets to Uber on this issue have so far gone unanswered.

Uber may pride itself on customer service, but in this case it’s an utter disaster. Uber, if you’re listening, stop ripping off your customers and start being transparent about what you’re charging and why.

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