The Ultimate Guide to Uber Airport Pickup: How to Maximize Your Earnings

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uber airport pickup

Uber airport pickup and dropoff have long been a staple in the rideshare driver’s strategy. There are, in fact, many drivers who center their entire driving strategy around shuttling riders to and from the airport. However, depending on your market, the times you drive, and your own driving preferences, you can make or lose money on airport rides.

That is why we’ve scoured the internet and polled drivers nationwide to determine a set of best practices for you. Our primary goal was to determine how to maximize your earnings at the airport no matter where you drive.

What it’s like to do an Uber airport pickup and dropoff run

You might be thinking, I don’t drive in Denver, Colorado. I get that. But it isn’t remarkably different from market to market. Each airport has its own weird quirks, and you’ll need to learn your own. However, the airport rideshare experience is pretty universal. Most drivers covet Uber airport pickup and dropoff rides because they often go the distance necessary to pay out a decent fare for your time.

I personally drive in Denver, Colorado, where the airport is a super lucrative drive for those who know-how. Denver International Airport is located anywhere from 25 to 35 away from most suburbs, making it a prime spot. On a standard driving day, I am at the airport at least twice, and if I have not ended up there, something has gone dreadfully wrong for me. The reason behind this is that I have built my driving strategy to focus on early morning airport trips. Why? For many reasons.

Formulating your own strategy for maximizing airport fares

I quickly deduced that to stay afloat in the rideshare world, no matter if you are full-time or part-time, you need to figure out what your driving strategy is — while maybe also having a few gigs to supplement your rideshare earnings.

Many drivers drive around without a compass, and they often find themselves losing money. It is no secret that Uber and Lyft don’t make it super easy for you to make money. Fortunately, Uber has a few tips on airport pickups.

If you aren’t clear in regards to when and where to make money, you won’t breakthrough into the black. I discovered early on that I needed to drive when demand was high, and I needed to find areas that fit the profile of my ideal rider.

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Why following what other drivers do, won’t necessarily work for you

With that said, you can emulate my strategy and have a modicum of success, or you can formulate your own and be wildly more successful. Why is this? Because what works for me may not necessarily work for you. I’ve had several drivers try to emulate my daily drive, and they often don’t take home as much. I wondered why this was for many months. I chalked it up to chance until I figured out that my services, my car, and my driving “style” fit a certain type of rider/driver combination. That secret sauce or secret mixture had to be just right, and I am convinced that both the Uber and Lyft algorithms account for several factors and metrics that we are not aware of as drivers. Once you’ve figured out your rider/driver combo and learn to use that to your advantage, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll receive positive ratings —and tips!— from your riders.

Figuring out your method

To maximize your Uber airport pickup and dropoff runs, you need to determine when you want to drive, where your ideal rider is located, and how to provide them with the best possible service.

When to drive

This is a critical metric for all drivers, no matter if your focus relies heavily on Uber airport pickups and dropoffs or not. When you drive will directly determine how much you can take home. Some drivers drive during the late-night hours and some drive during the day. You need to figure which one works for you. Once you know this, you can move on to step two, but not until you figure this.

You can mix and match, but my own personal strategy relies on ferrying business professionals to the airport in the wee’ hours of the mornin’. This works for me because I am an early riser, I have work to do at the home office during the day, and I typically despise driving at night. Automatically, you can tell that if you are a night owl, this driving window won’t work for you. But it doesn’t mean that people don’t go to the airport at night. In fact, there are a ton of airport rides to do at all hours of the day, you just need to pick the time that works for you.

A friendly reminder: If you’re driving nights, make sure your dashcam is equipped with night vision. It’s for your protection. We’ve heard many horror stories of drivers getting into trouble and finding it hard to dispute claims simply because they can’t provide sufficient proof.

Where to drive

The next step is to figure out where your rider clientele lives and works. My typical haunts in Denver, Colorado, have served me well throughout my rideshare “career.” I tried at first to find the maximum distance and stick to that area and wait for a ride. This didn’t work as well as I had hoped. It took many months and hours of calculation for me to figure out where these business professionals lived and worked. Once I had that figured, I knew the location I needed to start making my “rideshare turf.” Once you locate these areas, you will have a wellspring of Uber airport pickup and dropoff rides that can augment all of the other random trips you get.

Your ideal rideshare client and what they want from a rideshare ride

After a while, I started to understand what kind of rider I was servicing in this area and time slot. These people were looking for a specific experience, and I had to learn on the fly, just like you will have to. Pay attention to what works. If you get a big tip, a comment badge or the rider leaves sounding super pleased, try to replicate what you did for the next rider. Once you do that, you can round out the first three steps of maximizing your Uber airport pickup earnings.

Now that you have the basic blueprint

You might have noticed that the blueprint for maximizing your airport earnings is a common-sense approach to maximizing all rideshare earnings. That is no mistake on my part. Many drivers fail in their rideshare pursuits because they do not understand those basic concepts. Now that you have them and you’ve figured out your strategy, it is time to unveil some tips for universally maximizing your airport runs.

Tips for Maximizing your earnings while doing airport runs

First of all, there isn’t a magic potion or silver bullet for maximizing profits. There are too many variables at work in the rideshare business for someone to claim that they have it 100% figured out. However, there are a few universally accepted tips that can help you to avoid losing money. If you follow them well, you’ll also maximize your earnings.

The following list is an accumulation of my own rideshare driving experiences, and some of the best practices found online.

1: Understanding the demand for rides at the airport and in your city

The first step to maximizing earnings is figuring out the demand for rides in your individual market. If you have been driving for any length of time you’ve probably started to key in on the times when it is best to drive. You’ll need to apply that same thinking to strategizing your airport rides. There are two ways to do this, the hard way and the easy way.

The Hard Way

The hard way is to figure this out by trial and error, and I do not recommend this approach. This is not the way to go about your rideshare business —unless you enjoy losing money. It is no secret that the rideshare business isn’t one with a large margin for error. If you waste months trying to figure out when the best time to catch an airport ride is, you’re losing money. You need to be smart about it.

The Easy Way

Talk to other drivers and see what they say about your area in terms of Uber airport pickup and dropoff. Better yet, get online and check the airport’s website. Look at the incoming and outgoing flights and see when they are heading out or coming in. It’s also best to have Flightstats. It’s one of the apps you should have as a rideshare driver. This way, you can conveniently stay up-to-date on flight schedules, delays, and whatnot.

flight info for uber airport pickup

Usually, a rideshare ride to the airport will be two hours plus in advance of a flight. In Denver, Colorado, it is a safe bet that if you are awake and driving at around five in the morning, you’ll be heading to the airport. You’ll also likely be doing it against minimal traffic. Likewise, at about three in the afternoon, you’ll have a bevy of airport rides. But in this case, you’ll be fighting the early rush hour. Which do you think is a more profitable venture?

The trick is to find your sweet spot and know your demand!

2: To Queue or not to queue, that is your question!

At just about every airport in the country, rideshare drivers have a distinct set of airport-related rules. Many of the airports also have what is known as a queue. This queue is where drivers who are looking to grab airport rides can park and await incoming ride requests. There are quite a few drivers who make their fares doing just this. I am not entirely sure how they don’t go completely insane, but that is just me. Again, you need to find out what works for you, and To queue or Not to queue is one of the major questions.

In Denver, Colorado, the queue is almost always sixty-five cars or deeper. This could mean that if you decide to stay in the lot, instead of making the fifteen-mile trek back to the city, you could be sitting for over two hours. So the question is, which method will net you more money? In my experience, sitting for two hours is not the best path. I will often eat the mileage back to town and try to manufacture a ride back into town. Whichever method you choose will take some trial and error.

Some things to consider when deciding:

  1. How long will it take to get back to the rider demand?
  2. How many miles are you eating without a passenger? — Have a mileage tracker to help you monitor your gas consumption
  3. Are there any hotels or major hubs nearby you could grab a ride back into town with?
  4. What time of day is it? Is there heavy traffic?
  5. What does the demand map look like on your rideshare app? Is it surging or primetime?

3: Build up your tip capital by building rapport

One of the most effective ways to increase your trip earnings when doing Uber airport pickup and dropoff runs is to build up your tip capital. You can do this by providing excellent service to your airport rider.

uber airport pickup passenger

Airport riders are your goldmine, especially if you are making them part of your core strategy. So what does that mean? What do you need to do? Well, as we mentioned in our post on how to treat your Uber and Lyft Gig Like a Business, you need to put on your professional pants.

  1. Offer to help your airport rider with their luggage.
  2. Consider opening their door for them. (Only do this if you are in a safe pickup area. Street parking is not ideal for you to be out of your car)
  3. Ask your rider if they’d like music, talk radio, silence, or conversation.
  4. Drive safely, as always.

The key here is to shine bright. I don’t mean to sound tacky, but airport riders appreciate a few little gestures. I’ve done a few low-end case studies where I turn up the professionalism to an eleven and vice versa, provided a bare minimum for an airport ride. You don’t need to go to Harvard to figure out which riders tipped. Airport rides are far more likely to net you a tip, so be sure to build up your tip capital. If you don’t want to take your chances that a rider might forget to give you a tip, consider those tip and rating hanger signs.

4: Download Gridwise

One of the ways that I have found to figure out the demand in your market is by downloading and utilizing the app Gridwise. Gridwise is a rideshare app that analyzes demand in your area and provides you with realtime data. With this data, you can determine when there is substantial demand for airport rides. Their interface is excellent, and they offer both free and premium options. I personally go for the free and build my strategy around that. However, I have heard many good things about the premium version of the app.

Gridwise has got to be a staple in your toolkit if you are hoping to maximize your earnings from airport rides. It can also help you dial in events in the area. Go ahead and zip on over to the Apple Store or your Android/Google Play store and give it a try.

5: How to force airport rematches…

My final tip requires a little more finesse, and it can be a little bit of a risk as Uber has an algorithm for matching riders and drivers. Airport rematches are the key to maximizing your earnings on airport rides. Why? As we mentioned before, many airports across the country are a long distance from rider demand in an urban area. This means that you either need to Queue at the airport after you’ve delivered a rider to the airport, or you can hope for an instant rematch.

uber ride batch matching

Anyone who has been to the airport knows that rematches are like finding money on the sidewalk. They happen, but they are not a guarantee. So what can you do to increase your chances?

  1. End the ride a bit early. Approximately four to five minutes before you reach the destination. This is a risk, and you can lose a few pennies here and there, but the queue at the airport requires a driver to be to the location in around four to five minutes. So if you are more available than the drivers in the queue, you could trump their place in line.
  2. Level up your Uber Pro, applicable only to Uber drivers, so that you can qualify for a faster airport rematch. If you’ve gotten yourself to Diamond, there is a better chance that you’ll be rematched to get out of the airport with a ride. How well this works long term remains to be seen. I estimate that Uber Pro Diamond will most likely receive a small chance, whereas Platinum and Gold will be marginal at best.

Final Thoughts on Uber airport pickup and dropoff rides

We want to hear what you do to maximize your earnings as a rideshare driver fielding Uber airport pickup and dropoff rides. Do you have any surefire tips or tricks that you’d like to share? Ultimately, airport rides are one of the many staples of a rideshare driver’s “fare diet.” One of my best days was an airport bonanza where I was going to and from the airport five times in a row. That was a killer day for fares.

Disclaimer: The tips and tricks in this post will only work for you if you put the time and effort into determining the best times and locales to drive in. I suggest finding an affluent area with younger business professionals to target first. Once you know that area, figure out the best time to drive either through trial and error or the easy way with a few apps. I can assure you that if you just apply the principles I’ve outlined you will see a nice uptick in your airport ride earnings. 

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