Uber stops service at Southern California airport after fee increase

ONTARIO (AP) — Uber has stopped its service at Southern California’s Ontario International Airport because of fee increases. The ride-hailing …

ONTARIO (AP) — Uber has stopped its service at Southern California’s Ontario International Airport because of fee increases.

The ride-hailing company ceased operations at Ontario at one minute after midnight Friday.

The San Bernardino Sun says the airport east of Los Angeles recently began charging Uber and its app-based competitors $4 for a pickup and $4 for a drop-off.

Uber called the charges unfair because taxi cabs and limousines are assessed a single $3 fee.

Uber stops service at Ontario airport after fee increase

Uber called the charges unfair because taxi cabs and limousines are assessed a single $3 fee. Ontario said in a statement last month that Lyft, Uber’s …

ONTARIO, Calif. (AP) — Uber has stopped its service at Southern California’s Ontario International Airport because of fee increases.

The ride-hailing company ceased operations at Ontario at one minute after midnight Friday.

The San Bernardino Sun says the airport east of Los Angeles recently began charging Uber and its app-based competitors $4 for a pickup and $4 for a drop-off.

Uber called the charges unfair because taxi cabs and limousines are assessed a single $3 fee.

Ontario said in a statement last month that Lyft, Uber’s main competitor, will continue to operate at the airport.

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What is Uber’s “usual course” of business? Much rides on the answer

We’ve heard this before. Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick always said Uber wasn’t a rides company, but a “technology platform that connects riders …

The job of an Uber driver is to provide rides. Is that outside the usual course of business for Uber, a ride-hail company?

The question may seem absurd to anyone who’s used Uber, but it’s vitally important under a 2018 decision from California’s highest court, codified in a bill passed this week by the state’s senate. The fate of the gig economy could turn on that question.

The gig economy relies on a simple arbitrage: Hire workers as independent contractors through online platforms to avoid the costs of traditional employment. To treat workers as actual employees would require gig-economy companies, many of which bleed cash, to fork over millions more in payroll taxes and workers’ compensation, and force them to comply with local minimum-wage laws.

Both the court decision and California’s bill outlined a new legal test that makes it harder for companies to classify workers as contractors. The test has three parts, of which the toughest—and the point on which many gig companies are expected to fail—is the question of whether the worker performs work outside the “usual course” of the company’s business.

To the average person, the answer in Uber’s case is probably a resounding no. Uber drivers give rides to Uber passengers and deliver food to Uber Eats customers. Uber isn’t Uber without them.

But Uber sees it differently. “Several previous rulings have found that drivers’ work is outside the usual course of Uber’s business, which is serving as a technology platform for several different types of digital marketplaces,” Uber chief legal officer Tony West said this week.

We’ve heard this before. Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick always said Uber wasn’t a rides company, but a “technology platform that connects riders and drivers.” The description played better to venture capitalists (technology platforms, so much sexier than rides companies!) and also gave Uber a handy legal defense for the employment classification claims that dogged it.

The California bill was a progressive win, but it is far from the end. Uber, no stranger to protracted legal fights, won’t relinquish its labor model easily. And while the conversation has come far, it is also right back where it began.

This essay was originally published in the weekend edition of the Quartz Daily Brief newsletter. Sign up for it here.

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Uber makes it official: Service has ended at Ontario International Airport

Uber’s main competitor, Lyft, stands to gain from the dispute. It will continue to operate at ONT, Elkadi said. The fee imposed by the airport affected all …

Uber, the pioneering ride-hailing business, has ceased operations at Ontario International Airport, saying it is leaving because of a dispute over a fee increase imposed by the airport.

The app-activated pickup and delivery service planned to stop serving ONT passengers starting one minute past midnight Friday, Sept. 13, the company confirmed on Thursday.

“I wanted to follow up and share that Uber is following through on its decision to end operations starting tonight (Friday) at 12:01 a.m. PT,” Katie Alto, an Uber spokesperson, wrote in an emailed response Thursday.

On Aug. 8, Uber sent a letter to the Ontario International Airport Authority’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer Atif Elkadi, saying it would stop service on Sept. 13 unless the authority was willing to renegotiate its contract. Uber had asked the airport to reduce the $4 fee for pickups and drop-offs that the airport had raised from $3 in July. Uber said the higher fees charged for using ONT roads, drop off points and temporary parking areas made it “the most expensive airport of its size in the U.S. in terms of the fees that riders would pay to use Uber.”

Uber had asked the OIAA to not implement the $4 fee until it could provide justification for the increase and explain what the extra revenue would be used for. “But they refused,” Uber wrote in an email.

Elkadi said the airport had been in talks with the San Francisco-based ride-hailing company since early August. He said the two sides discussed the fee increase, looked at different opportunities for Uber and “different ways we can partner.” But the talks were not fruitful.

“The hurdle was the one dollar increase. It was an increase they wanted us to reconsider and we are not,” he said.

Uber’s main competitor, Lyft, stands to gain from the dispute. It will continue to operate at ONT, Elkadi said. The fee imposed by the airport affected all Transportation Network Companies, namely Uber and Lyft. Taxis pay a $3 fee.

Signs indicating “Uber and Lyft pickup and drop off” areas will be changed. The airport will black out the word “Uber” until new, generic signs are made and installed, pointing passengers to ride-hailing and rideshare app service locations, Elkadi said.

“We are informing our customers to make sure they download the Lyft app,” he added. He said passengers also can get to the airport and avoid parking fees by taking Omnitrans.

Elkadi said the money raised will be used to improve airport roadways, parking lots and signage. Elkadi disputed the characterization made by Uber about high fees. He said Hollywood-Burbank Airport assesses TNCs at $3.50 per ride and the fee at LAX is $4 per ride. “Our rate is reasonable,” he added.

Uber said it had not passed the airport use fees onto its riders and did not want to start doing so.

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Uber Will Block Drivers From Taking Riders When Business Is Slow

NEW YORK — Uber will soon join Lyft in blocking New York City drivers from working when demand for rides is low as the tech giants grapple with …

NEW YORK — Uber will soon join Lyft in blocking New York City drivers from working when demand for rides is low as the tech giants grapple with minimum-pay rules.

Starting Tuesday, Uber will lock drivers out of its platform at times and locations that few riders are requesting trips, according the company, which emailed its Big Apple drivers about the change Friday afternoon.

Uber is following Lyft’s lead in controlling its supply of cars in response to the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s rules setting a pay floor for drivers based on how much time they spend carrying passengers. Both companies blame the city for forcing them to limit when drivers work.

“Time and again we’ve seen Mayor (Bill) de Blasio’s TLC pass arbitrary and politically-driven rules that have unintended consequences for drivers and riders — despite objections from City Councilmembers, transportation experts, editorial boards and community groups,” Uber spokesperson Harry Hartfield said in a statement.

Uber’s new limits are similar to a scheme that Lyft implemented over the summer. Drivers who try to open their app when and where demand is lagging will be told that they are unable to drive, the company says.

Those who use wheelchair-accessible vehicles will be exempt from the restrictions, as will those with the top status in Uber’s driver rewards program, the company said.

A map showing where demand is the highest will allow drivers to travel to other parts of the city to have a better shot of getting work, Uber says. Drivers will also be offered a time slot when they will be guaranteed the ability to log on — a feature that Uber says distinguishes its system from Lyft’s.

Uber says it was forced to make the change because its platform was flooded with drivers who opened its app after being shut out of Lyft’s. That hurt its utilization rate, the measure of how much time drivers spend actually carrying passengers that serves as the basis for the city’s minimum pay rules, Uber said. The rules aim to ensure that drivers make $17.22 an hour after expenses.

Uber’s change will further harm drivers’ ability to make money in a notoriously difficult industry, according to Corona Uber driver Aziz Bah.

Bah used to drive for both Uber and Lyft but stopped working for the latter after the demand restrictions repeatedly locked him out of the app, he said. Now his Lyft income of $500 to $600 a week is gone and his Uber earnings have dropped because of the glut of drivers on that platform, Bah said.

Limiting when drivers can work also compromises the flexibility that drew many of them into the industry, said Bah, who is also a steward for the Independent Drivers Guild, a labor group for app-based drivers. The guild raised concerns about Lyft’s restrictions in a June letter to the TLC.

“Some people quit their nine-to-five jobs in order to have this flexibility that the industry gave them,” Bah said. “… All of a sudden it’s being taken away.”

Both Uber and Lyft argue that the restrictions are a result of the TLC’s rules, which Lyft unsuccessfully sued over earlier this year.

Acting TLC Commissioner Bill Heinzen defended the agency’s first-in-the-nation regulations, which came amid a landmark freeze on most new for-hire vehicles.

The firms spent years flooding the city’s streets with cars and should keep in mind that “drivers are crucial to their continued success,” Heinzen said.

“Until we took needed action last year, it has been Uber and Lyft’s business model to oversaturate the market while promising drivers that they could succeed despite these companies’ stacking the deck against them,” Heinzen said in a statement. “TLC and City Council put in place smart policies to address the problems these companies created, and they are finally being forced to experiment with ways to run their businesses in an environment of accountability.”

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