Uber, Wingz cleared to pick up passengers at John Wayne Airport

Travelers at John Wayne Airport will soon have more choices when it comes to taxi service.

Travelers at John Wayne Airport will soon have more choices when it comes to taxi service.

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

A pair of ride-sharing companies were issued permits Monday to begin picking up passengers at Orange County’s John Wayne Airport, one of the first large Southern California airports to allow the service.

Uber and Wingz were first to apply for permission to collect passengers at the airport under a new operating permit approved by county supervisors this month, according to an airport news release.

Uber is set to begin collecting passengers at the airport Tuesday. Wingz was scheduled to begin providing service Monday, the release said.


John Wayne Airport, which is the third busiest commercial airport in Southern California, is one of the first large airports in the region to permit Uber, Lyft and other smartphone-based ride share services to operate alongside the traditional fleets of taxicabs, town cars and shuttle buses.

Uber and Lyft drivers were already permitted to drop off customers, and premium ride services like UberBLACK and UberSUV were also previously cleared to make pick-ups under a different operating permit.

But other arriving passengers who wanted to avoid queuing up for a cab had to walk across busy MacArthur Boulevard to meet up with a ride-sharing service if they selected the low-cost option in which drivers use their personal cars.

The on-demand ride services — which can be arranged through a smartphone app — have quickly become a popular alternative to taxis. But both Uber and Lyft, the leaders among ride-sharing providers, are increasingly facing scrutiny over the way they handle insurance and background checks.

But customer demand has forced airports to contemplate how to regulate the ride-sharing companies if they are allowed to fetch customers within the typically bustling curbside environment of cabs, shuttle vans and rental-car buses.

The new, month-to-month permits at John Wayne will allow drivers to enter the airport only if a pickup has been requested and confirmed.


The companies also must pay a $2.25 pickup fee, which officials hope to monitor using a “geo-fence” technology being tested at San Francisco Airport. The technology would surround the airport with a virtual fence that could monitor cars as they enter and depart, and track pickup and drop-off activity.

For now, John Wayne will rely on something far less high-tech — the honor system.

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