Rideshare drivers weigh in as Lyft, Uber threaten to cease Sky Harbor operations over fee increase

In the aftermath of Phoenix City Council's approval of a controversial fee increase for rideshare pick-ups and drop-offs at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, officials with Uber and Lyft have threatened to stop serving the airport.

"We're pulling out of the airport, I want to be clear about that," said Piper Overstreet with Uber, on Wednesday. "We'll still be a transportation option around the Valley and state."

"Given today’s vote, we plan to cease operations at Sky Harbor ahead of the fee implementation in order to prevent the unfair penalization of our drivers and riders," read a portion of a statement released by Lyft officials Wednesday night. "They should not have to shoulder the burden of the city’s budget shortcomings."

Under the now-approved fee increase proposal, which is set to kick in on February 1, 2020, rideshare operators will pay a $2.80 pick-up and drop-off fee for non-zero emission vehicles at the PHX Sky Train Station.

Zero-emission vehicles will pay a $2.40 pick-up and drop-off fee instead for pick-ups and drop-offs at the Sky Train Station.

For pick-ups and drop-offs at the terminal curb, a $4 fee will be imposed, which will increase to $4.25 in 2021, $4.50 in 2022, $4.75 in 2023, and to $5 in 2024. Starting in 2025, the rate will increase by either the inflation rate of 3%, whichever is greater.

Currently, there is a fee of $2.66 that is only applied towards pick-ups.

Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport

Meanwhile, rideshare drivers are weighing in on the fee increase. They don't love the new fee structure, but they really don't like the idea of Uber and Lyft leaving the airport altogether.

"Every city has this kind of a fee. I mean yeah, it sucks that it's a little extra, but compared to LAX," said Lyft driver Mikki Romalatti.

"I'm a poker player. I know a bluff when I see it," said Lyft driver Troy Baker. "I don't think they would totally pull out. It's a negotiation, like anything."

Besides the threats by the two major ridesharing companies, some speakers have warned Phoenix City Council members during a meeting that the increase is illegal under Arizona law.

"Make no mistake: if you pass this, you will put in place one of the most punishing policies, and you will be behaving illegally," said Jon Riches with the Goldwater Institute.

The fees are meant to cut down on terminal traffic and encourage the use of the PHX Sky Train.

"We can't have anybody driving into the airport and setting up a store or restaurant. That's what we are trying to do is that everybody is being treated the same," said Phoenix City Councilmember Michael Nowakoski.

Most of the new fee money, about $18 million, would go to operate the Sky Trains. It would also pay for roads, signs and staff.

Just like airport rides, support the livelihoods of hundreds of Uber and Lyft drivers.

"It's probably 50% of my business, and as a Lyft driver, it's one of the safest trips you can take," said Baker.

"Drivers are scrambling for trips as it is," said Romalatti. "Airport trips are the safest trips out there. We know no one is going to try to kill us."

FOX 10 has reached out to the Arizona Attorney General's Office and Goldwater Institute about the possibility of a lawsuit to stop the fee hike, but both have yet to respond.