Following the lead of other airports across the country, the Quad-City International Airport has entered into an agreement with ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft.
The Rock Island County Metropolitan Airport Authority Board of Commissioners approved the three-year agreements with both transportation networking companies Tuesday morning. In addition to a fixed annual fee, the airport will receive $3 each time a driver picks up a passenger at the terminal.
Executive Director Ben Leischner said since Uber and Lyft entered the Quad-City market around 2015, the services have been in violation of airport rules and regulations by not having a valid agreement in place, similar to those signed by taxi cab companies.
"When it comes to ground transportation at the airport, transportation network companies have been a disruptive technology," Leischner said. "It changes the standard mold of taxi service and shuttle service to be an on-demand ride-share platform."
Airport staff have sought to put in place an agreement with ride-sharing services for the past few years, Leischner said. Hundreds of airports across the country have approved formal agreements with the transportation networking companies, and have noticed a boost in revenue afterward.
The Washington Post reported in 2017 that ride-hailing service agreements have become one of the fastest-growing sources of revenue at major airports, such as the Los Angeles International Airport.
Leischner said the Quad-City airport is establishing geo-fences around the terminal, where the service charge will be applicable. It does not include other properties, such as surrounding hotels.
Under the agreements, the companies will pay a $3,500 activation deposit, then a fixed annual fee equivalent to the existing taxi fee, around $1,325. And, a pick-up fee of $3 will be charged every time a passenger hails a ride at the terminal.
Leischner said he's not sure how many passengers use Uber and Lyft at the airport on a regular basis, but the agreement offers some estimates. If around 15 to 30 trips are taken each day, the airport estimates it will receive between $19,000 and $38,000 of non-aeronautical annual revenue.
"We're not looking at it so much as a revenue generator, but something to offset existing expenses," Leischner said. "We're talking a lot about snow and ice control and keeping roadways clear. Commercial operators are almost the majority users of that area."
He said approving the formal agreement also helps mitigate the airport's liability risk. Uber and Lyft will self-report the number of rides each month. But, Leischner said the airport could request real-time data if enforcement becomes an issue. The agreement also can be terminated within 30 days' notice.
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John Malvik, chairman of the airport authority board, congratulated Lesichner on finalizing the agreement.
"We've been talking about this and talking about and talking about it for several years," he said. "Then, Ben comes on board and in his first year, it's done. Congratulations."
Passenger numbers up last month
The Quad-City International Airport posted higher passenger numbers again last month, with an 8 percent increase in enplanements compared to the same month last year.
In March, the airport posted 32,821 enplanements, up from 30,419 in March 2018. Year-to-date, the airport has enplaned 5 percent more passengers than last year.
The airport reported 33,345 total passengers last month — the number includes both enplanements and deplanements — compared to 31,238 passengers in March 2018, a 7 percent jump.
"We're looking at March numbers as an increase, which is great," Leischner said. "We've talked about how we're trying to fill the planes as much as possible. Load factors have come down a little bit, but we're still seeing increased capacity."
Leischner said United Express saw a boost in passengers last month, reporting 7,780 enplanements, a 33 percent increase from last year, with 5,856 enplanements reported in March 2018.
Allegiant reported 7,621 enplanements, a 9 percent increase from the same month last year. Leischner said the Allegiant flight to Punta Gorda, Fla. will be discontinued later this month.
"It was kind of a test to see how it goes, and load factors weren't as great as other locations," he said. "We've looked a lot at stabilizing the market and putting more focus on cost relative to airlines ... We're developing a plan with consultants on what markets we'll be targeting and what opportunities we have out there to increase air service."
The airport's passenger numbers have been up the first three months of the year.