“Unifying airport planning goals with the future of ground transportation”

The way people choose to travel to and from the airport isn’t changing, it’s already changed, with Uber now an option for travellers at over 600 airports around the world. Here, Stephanie Hughes, Head of Growth, EMEA Operations, tells Ross Falconer how Uber’s platform can adapt and extend in ways that build around an airport’s physical environment.

Stephanie Hughes, Head of Growth, EMEA Operations, Uber: “We want to become an indispensable platform at airports. It all boils down to providing riders and drivers with the best possible experience when they use our platform to access convenience, or provide transportation services on airport trips.”

The way people choose to travel to and from the airport isn’t changing, it’s already changed. In a world where people summon food, entertainment, and transportation with the tap of a button, Uber has become an everyday option for millions of travellers at 600+ airports around the world.

“We see an opportunity for Uber and airports to do more by creating programmes, policies, and initiatives that can maximise the natural efficiency of our platform, placing customers’ convenience, flexibility, and peace of mind first,” says Stephanie Hughes, Head of Growth, EMEA Operations, Uber. “We can aspire to a higher bar, while addressing a common challenge of reducing single-vehicle occupancy and congestion in an era when airport travel continues to increase.”

No two airports are the same, though a common challenge is emerging: the need to manage traffic flow within a constrained space, without sacrificing customer experience.

“Instead of working in silos, together we can meaningfully improve everyone’s experience,” Hughes asserts. “By establishing a deeper dialogue with airport partners to ensure the customer remains front and centre, we’re enabling stakeholders to effectively leverage our platform’s capabilities. Our platform can adapt and extend in ways that build around an airport’s physical environment, through efficiencies that legacy modes like private, single-occupancy vehicles or other commercial services cannot offer.”

One example is the PIN matching feature that Uber recently launched at Portland Airport (PDX), and which has since expanded to 10 airports globally. “This feature wasn’t built in isolation – it was launched with the help of PDX’s operational expertise and has been successful in reducing rider wait times and improving traffic flow at the airport in a very short amount of time,” Hughes explains.

Harnessing technology offers the opportunity to help improve the passenger experience, reduce congestion, and cut vehicle emissions. A feature Uber has developed specifically for airport trips is ‘Rematch’, which allows drivers who just completed a drop off to receive another pickup request within a short window without returning to the staging lot.

“Rematch recently launched at Boston-Logan International Airport, where rider wait times fell by nearly 30% as we saw Rematch capture 50% of pickups, significantly reducing the number of vehicles on the airport’s roadway network,” says Hughes. “Rematch is now live at more than 200 airports globally.”

More than ever before, customers want convenience and speed at the tap of a button all in one place. Business travellers, for example, place a high value on speed and convenience. Uber has developed several products with these travellers in mind, such as Priority Airport Pickups for Platinum and Diamond members of the UberRewards programme, and Uber for Business accounts that seamlessly integrate receipt tracking on Uber trips to expense reports.

“We are also looking for innovative ways to provide customers with more choices,” Hughes comments. “In 2019, Uber launched Uber Comfort, which offers riders newer, mid-sized cars, extra legroom, and preferences allowing riders to communicate their ideal temperature in advance and let drivers know when they’re looking for a quiet ride.”

In partnership with San Francisco International Airport, Uber launched Comfort curbside pickups, giving riders who want to save time the choice to pay a bit more for a faster, more elevated experience. “With Comfort now available in more than 130 cities around the world, we are excited to partner with more airports to bring customers greater consistency and reliability when using our app,” Hughes adds.

Technology is key to a frictionless travel experience, and small steps can unlock even more opportunities for customers to benefit. “As airports undertake capital projects and plan their long-term technology and innovation roadmaps, we believe we can help them create a better product through effective partnerships,” says Hughes.

For example, Uber is partnering with New York’s LaGuardia Airport as part of its major redevelopment project on landside configuration, utilising Uber pickups to improve the customer experience and maximise efficiency.

“We want to be a true partner by collaborating early and often with airports to solve their most pressing issues and improve the passenger experience together. We’re building scalable capabilities to work with airports as part of their planning processes to design for the future in a way that unifies airport planning goals with the future of airport ground transportation.”

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