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Uber Reveals Inaugural “Airport of the Year” Award Winners

April 13 / Canada

Airports in New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Seattle are among those recognized for creating a best-in-class rideshare experience

The terminal curbside serves as an airport’s front door. Since first impressions during a traveler’s journey can come to define the overall experience, Uber and airports around the globe have worked together for more than a decade to create the best possible passenger experience.

Despite ongoing impacts from the global pandemic, airports continued the work of improving the ground transportation experience throughout the past year. Through wayfinding investments, space reallocations, innovative technology features and more, airports have changed the way passengers access air travel and upleveled expectations.

As one of the largest technology players in the airport ground transportation space, Uber is proud to recognize airports in the US and Canada whose efforts in 2021 helped create a best-in-class rideshare experience. Each award recipient demonstrated excellence in categories spanning shortest wait time, commitment to innovation, and best customer experience.

Quickest Pickup

After a long day of flying, travelers want their ride to arrive at the curb shortly after requesting. With an average customer wait time well under 3 minutes, passengers at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) enjoyed the fastest average pickups. MSY has helped create this excellent customer experience by dedicating a close-in driver waiting lot and allowing for the repositioning of a limited number of vehicles directly to the terminal curbside with Uber’s ExpressMatch technology. The airport also regularly engages Uber to exchange status updates and identify ways of making additional improvements to the pickup experience.

Director of Aviation Kevin Dolliole accepts the 2021 Quickest Pickup Award along with members of the MSY leadership team and the family of the late Landside Coordinator Harold Dede.

The Innovators

Innovation is at the core of Uber’s identity, and airports around the world have turned to technology as a tool to improve the traveler journey. Each airport featured in this section has demonstrated a commitment to innovation through initiatives and operational pilots that can serve as a model for the broader industry.

Faced with worsening congestion amid a roadway construction project, Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) set out to rethink how vehicles access its roadway system. PHL realized that rideshare volume had grown significantly in recent years and decided to dedicate a commercial road for rideshare pickups. As part of the reconfiguration, the airport invested in weather shelters, deployed enhanced wayfinding, and partnered to launch Uber’s ExpressMatch technology. With ExpressMatch, drivers who are near the top of the virtual queue are automatically repositioned from the waiting lot to a secondary area, designated by PHL, just feet from where customers request their trips. As drivers enter the new road, license plate reader technology verifies the vehicle against real-time data and the driver is matched with a passenger in a seamless, near zero-wait manner.

Philadelphia International Airport CEO Chellie Cameron and her team accept the 2021 Innovation Award from representatives of the Uber airport partnerships team.

The city of Toronto is widely recognized as Canada’s technology hub, so it is little surprise that Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) commits itself to innovation. For years, the airport has worked to ensure that reliable transportation options are available to passengers, including through pilot programs that tested new technologies. Recently, however, YYZ became the first in the world to offer mobile food ordering and contactless pick up through the UberEats app. Passengers can avoid lines when ordering, creating a socially distanced experience that also saves time. The app automatically detects when a passenger is at the airport and informs them of the nearest food options.

The ground transportation team at Denver International Airport (DEN) has consistently invested in creative uses of technology to improve the airport experience. DEN was the first airport to offer on-site vaccines for drivers and to partner with Uber to raise awareness and facilitate scheduling through the Uber app, an initiative that helped ~1,000 individuals secure appointments. On the technology front, DEN built an in-house real-time data feed, reducing dependencies on third parties and demonstrating a commitment to technology investments. Meanwhile, at the terminal curbside, each member of the DEN ground transportation team has a QR code on their phone that connects drivers to a dedicated page with info about operating at the airport. Looking to the future, DEN is collaborating to improve transportation options (especially for staff members who need to get around the airport itself) and is working to install EV charging infrastructure in the driver waiting lot.

Denver International Airport CEO Phillip A. Washington and members of the airport leadership team accept the 2021 Innovation Award during a recent site visit.

Experience Obsessed

Metrics can only capture pieces of how well an operation is running. Airport policies can also have a significant impact on the passenger and driver experience. The airports recognized in this section have put themselves in the shoes of those who connect on Uber’s platform and consistently incorporate diverse perspectives in airport decision-making.

Airports that consider the end-to-end passenger journey are able to identify and solve for potential pain points. The Portland International Airport (PDX) ground transportation team considers each step in the customer journey and has invested in making the experience as smooth as possible. PDX consistently collaborates with Uber on piloting new features and experiences for both riders and drivers. PDX has approved a number of Uber’s features, including PIN and ExpressMatch. Currently, the airport is building a new ground transportation center with the direct input of rideshare platform companies and their tech capabilities. The new facility will be designed around Uber’s zero-wait pickup technologies.

By investing in the facilities where drivers wait for trips, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) has made itself one of the most highly rated airports by drivers on the Uber platform. Within the past year, the airport worked with local governmental agencies to fund the installation of permanent restrooms that will replace temporary facilities in the future. SEA also applied for and received grant funding to improve waiting lot infrastructure by adding up to 10 electric vehicle chargers. Looking to the future, the airport is exploring how they can partner with the rideshare industry to drive EV adoption and direct drivers to use the new charging infrastructure.

Collaborating on the Future of Ground Transportation

While the six awarded airports looked to different technologies and investments to meet their needs, each demonstrated an underlying commitment to working in partnership to improve the end-to-end customer journey. By considering the viewpoints of riders and drivers, setting shared goals, and engaging in the spirit of partnership, Uber and airports around the country can make the terminal curbside much more than just a front door.

The Uber Airports team tackles tough challenges and works in partnership with airports around the world to achieve operational goals. For more information, reach out to us at us-airports@uber.com or canada-airports@uber.com.