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Uber tells Phoenix it will end airport service if disputed fees enacted

PHOENIX – Uber made it clear it hasn’t been bluffing about ending service to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in response to pending new fees.

The ride-hailing giant on Tuesday notified the airport it would cease operations at the airport Jan. 31 at 11:59 p.m. if the fee plan passed by the Phoenix City Council last month goes into effect as scheduled the next day. The letter was made public Wednesday.

The letter was sent the same day Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed two actions with the Arizona Supreme Court to stop the fees from being implemented Feb. 1.

Brnovich asked the state’s highest court to rule on whether the fees would violate the state constitution, as he believes, and issue an order preventing them from being collected until a ruling is made on their constitutionality, which he said could take months. He filed an additional brief Wednesday making the court aware of Uber’s letter.

The Phoenix City Council, which approved the fees Dec. 18, called an executive session on the matter for Wednesday afternoon.

Brnovich told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday the plan was “not only unconstitutional, but stupid.”

“I’m hoping when they come out of that executive session they have seen the light and they do the right thing,” he said.

Lyft, the other major transportation network company (TNC) that would be impacted by the fees, has previously said it intended to eliminate rides to and from Sky Harbor if the fees were implemented. The company did not immediately respond to a request Wednesday for confirmation that it was still planning to end airport service.

Last week, Brnovich issued a report saying he believes the fee plan “very likely” violates the state constitution, leading to this week’s court filings. He believes the fees violate of a voter-approved amendment banning new taxes or tax increases on services.

Brnovich has said Phoenix potentially could lose up to $20 million in state funding as a consequence for disregarding state law.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, who’s been pushing for the fees, called the plan “smart” and “legal” in response to Brnovich’s report.

J. Cabou, legal counsel for the city, told KTAR News last week the city has a constitutional right to assess fees for use of its property.

The city’s plan calls for charging TNCs $4 for curbside pickups and drop-offs starting next month. The rate would increase 25 cents a year until hitting $5 in 2024.

Uber and Lyft have been operating at the airport with $2.66 fees for pickups and no charge for drop-offs.

The plan also raises fees for other modes of commercial ground transportation at the airport.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Peter Samore contributed to this report.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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