Uber, Lyft confirm Phoenix airport business as usual for now

Passengers find their rides at the Ride Share point as they exit Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Dec. 18 in Phoenix. 

PHOENIX — The Phoenix airport would be barred from adding fees to ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft under a proposal introduced in the Arizona Legislature.

The move by a bipartisan group of House lawmakers led by Republican Rep. Travis Grantham is designed to prevent new fees Phoenix wants to impose even if the state Supreme Court rules that they are legal.

Phoenix wanted to impose the new fees on Feb. 1. But they are on hold after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich found last month that they are “very likely” unconstitutional.

The new $4 pickup and dropoff fees won’t be imposed while the state Supreme Court considers whether they are legal under a 2018 constitutional amendment that banned new fees on services, as Brnovich determined. The city currently charges $2.66 for each pickup but doesn’t charge for rider drop-offs.

Lawyers for the city say the higher fees are not taxes on services, but rather permissible charges for businesses to use the city-owned Sky Harbor International Airport, one of the largest U.S. airports serving about 44 million passengers a year.

Uber and Lyft have threatened to stop service at the airport if the new fees are imposed. Grantham cited that as one of the reasons he is pushing his proposal.

“When they’re going to so severely restrict our ability to use the services that are out there, I think the state has to step in and take a position,” he said Monday. “And quite honestly, I hope the court rules the way I want them to rule, which would be similar to what this bill does.”

“But if they don’t, I felt that we needed something there to be ready,” he said.

Grantham got 39 out of 90 House and Senate members to co-sponsor his bill. But he said he believes there are many more supporters.

The proposal applies to any public airport in the state.

Phoenix runs the airport independently without state money. The city argues the fees are akin to rent and landing fees charged to restaurants and airlines.

“The Phoenix approach of ensuring that companies profiting from the airport pay their fair share is smart — and legal,” Mayor Kate Gallego, a Democrat, said in a statement after Brnovich acted last month. “This fee is no different from the fee every other vendor has paid at our airport since its creation.”

City spokesman Matthew Heil declined to comment, saying the city’s focus is on preparing for the Supreme Court’s March 26 hearing.

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