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UberX begins pickup service at LAX

The first passenger is picked up at LAX by ride-sharing service UberX.

Ragat Chopra bypassed the line of yellow cabs that promised to whisk him away from the bustle of LAX on Thursday, and chose instead to order up a black sedan with an Uber sticker.

Fortunately for the San Jose engineer, Thursday was the first day Uber began offering its lowest-cost ride service to travelers at Los Angeles International Airport.

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UberX's arrival was the culmination of months of negotiations and political infighting, but the 37-year-old Chopra knew nothing about that. He just assumed Uber service would be available, just as it is at Bay Area airports.

"It's more convenience," Chopra said. "I hate the hassle of paying and tipping. I don't have to judge [the service] or calculate the tip or be judged for what I leave."

Uber is the second ride-hailing company to be granted full access to one of Southern California's most lucrative ride markets. Its main rival, Lyft, started working at LAX in December.

"We're very excited to play a part in simplifying and modernizing the LAX experience," said Christopher Ballard, Uber's general manager of Southern California, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

For more than two years, Uber and Lyft drivers have been allowed to drop off passengers at LAX. Travelers could request a higher-end Uber or Lyft car service, operated by a state-licensed livery driver, but the companies' low-cost services were banned.

As the morning pace picked up at LAX on Thursday, a line of commuters stretched from the curb to the sliding glass doors of the baggage terminal.

Marc Leblanc, 46, fresh off of a flight from San Francisco, looked down at his iPhone and tracked his Uber car.

"That cab line is really long," he said. Plus his corporate card is linked to Uber. "I never have to touch filthy money."

He said he enjoys the lower rates, but admits there are trade-offs. As the line thinned, he was still waiting for his Uber.

"I probably could've gotten in a cab by now," he said.

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