Everyone knows that operating an airport is expensive, and major ones like Sky Harbor International collect revenue from various sources, starting with the airlines and extending down to rental car companies, vendors and parking, which steadily increases in price. Phoenix operates the airport as a major resource not only for the city but the whole state, with a business model that is self-supporting beyond the federal and state funding it receives.
Taxicabs also pay the airport. That industry has been heavily impacted by the rideshare companies, which consumers have found to be economical and efficient. Sky Harbor, named the nation’s best airport by the Wall Street Journal, charges them $2.66 for a passenger pickup. The city had planned to add a new $4 fee for both pickups and drop-offs, and to gradually increase that to $5 in 2024. The companies objected, and the state attorney general weighed in by saying that the charge would be illegal under a state proposition barring new taxes on services, something that muddies the issue. The Arizona Supreme Court will decide the matter.
Meanwhile, a bill has surfaced in the Legislature that would roll back airport ride fees to 2017 levels.
Obviously, no one wants to pay more than they have to for anything and such legislation will have fans, but airports have needs. Uber and Lyft have created a huge new business with a creative model that customers have appreciated. But that does not mean they should be exempt from paying for their share of air travel services while others in effect subsidize them.
The rideshare companies have a large number of drivers who offer their services at a reasonable amount. Collecting a small fee from customers to pay for airport facilities really will not damage their market share.
Beyond airports, the cost of government is expensive as well. Carving out exceptions of who has to pay is not a good precedent.