GREEN, Ohio - The Akron-Canton Airport this month will begin requiring ride-share drivers to buy a $400 annual permit to wait for riders on airport property, including in the cell phone lot.
Airport officials said it was updating its rules to make the system fair for all drivers, including taxi and limo drivers, who were already required to obtain permits. However, some Uber and Lyft drivers said it's an unfair burden on drivers.
"We want all of our transportation companies to be able to operate in a way that's efficient for them," said Akron-Canton Airport Director of Marketing Lisa Dalpaiz. "This is just being fair to all of our transportation companies, so if we're going to be charging the taxi drivers, it's fair to be charging Uber and Lyft drivers. We are providing their customers for them."
Drivers without a permit will still be able to pick up and drop off riders at the terminal but will have to wait for customers off site and will not be permitted to linger on airport grounds.
Dalpaiz said Summit County sheriff's deputies who work security at the airport will enforce the regulation, which takes effect May 21.
At other, larger airports, including Cleveland Hopkins, Uber and Lyft charge each rider an additional fee directly.
"We've been trying to work with Uber and Lyft, the corporate headquarters, to get that taken care of, and we've been unable to get a partnership with them," Dalpaiz said.
Some drivers said the fee places an unfair burden on drivers, who often work part-time.
"We cannot afford $400 out of our pocket because it's just a part-time gig for almost every driver in Akron," said Eric Kirkland, an Uber and Lyft driver who oversees a local Facebook group for ride-share drivers.
He said he thinks the change could reduce the number of drivers servicing the airport, leading to longer waits for riders.
"I just think it's unfair to ask drivers to pay that fee out of our pockets when it's not like that anywhere else," Kirkland said. "Uber and Lyft need to work with the airport to come up with a better solution."
A Lyft spokesperson provided a statement saying Lyft has been in active conversations with Akron-Canton Airport staff in order to find a "collaborative way forward."
"We are hopeful CAK will continue to work with us to ensure travelers have access to affordable transportation options like ride-sharing," spokesperson Kaitlyn Carl said in the statement.
Uber did not yet respond to a request for comment.
Ride-share driver Mike Beck, who services the Akron-Canton Airport often, said he planned to buy the permit and hopes it will thin the number of drivers, leading to more business.
"The blame should go on Uber and Lyft. It's rough that we have to pay it, but it is what it is," he said. "The airport has to do what the airport has to do."