Uber dodges questions about secret airport fees

Uber is loading its fares to and from South African airports with surcharges and parking fees without warning riders about the extra costs.

The ride-hailing service did not provide clarity on these fees when asked about them, but a driver I spoke to following one such trip said the extra money goes straight into Uber’s pockets.

According to the driver, there had been talk of the road leading to Lanseria Airport being tolled for Uber drivers. Although this never materialised, the surcharges are still added to these fares.

He explained that Uber drivers pay nothing extra to pick up or drop customers off at the airport, adding that the fee goes directly to Uber, not the airport.

He also noted that Uber has since changed the fee description from “Lanseria Airport surcharge” to “Airport Parking Fee”.

However, the driver said that Uber drivers don’t park at the airport but a short distance away on the roadside while waiting for trips.

MyBroadband first learned of the issue from a reader who was charged an extra R30 across two line items. The first was R20 for a “Lanseria Airport surcharge”, and the second was R10 for an “Airport Surcharge”.

Months after first asking about this in July, Uber finally told MyBroadband that the rider was charged more than usual for the trip and would be refunded.

However, the same rider was billed an extra R20 “Lanseria Airport Parking fee” and a R10 “Airport Surcharge” on their trip from Lanseria Airport to Fourways on Monday, 11 September 2023.

Furthermore, there appear to be inconsistencies with Uber’s airport fees as the reader was only charged the R20 “Lanseria Airport Parking fee” on their return trip.

We asked Uber about the driver’s allegations, but it didn’t answer our questions about Lanseria directly.

“Additional charges may apply to your trip, including tolls, surcharges, or other fees. These charges are automatically added to your trip fare,” an Uber spokesperson said.

“Please note that charges added to your trip fare may not exactly match the amount paid by your driver. For example, you may be assessed a surcharge when a driver pays a toll when returning to your city of origin, or for pickups or drop-offs at an airport.”

They added that tolls and surcharges in some cities are only estimates.

“You may also pay an additional charge to your driver for other costs or inconveniences, such as a parking fee to enter a venue or a long return trip after arrival at your destination,” the spokesperson said.

Trip from Lanseria Airport (left) and return trip (right)

Regarding the fate of these additional charges, the spokesperson said they may be:

  • Retained by the driver;
  • Paid by your driver; or,
  • Passed through to the airport or other third parties.

As can be seen from the above Uber receipts, the rider was charged R190 for the trip from the airport, and R184 for the ride back.

In July 2023, they were quoted R179 for the trip when requesting the ride, which they accepted and completed. Later the same day, they noticed that the R179 charge had been reversed, and a new charge of R209 was processed.

Upon checking their receipt, they noticed the two surcharges.

On their return to the airport a few days later, they noticed a similar occurrence: their trip fare of R215 was reversed, and a new charge of R235 was processed. However, they were only charged the “Lanseria Airport surcharge” of R20 this time.

Uber ultimately told MyBroadband that the rider would receive a refund, but without providing specifics about where the error on the bill was.

“We have investigated the matter, and it appears the rider was charged more than the usual fare for the trip, for which the rider will receive a refund,” an Uber spokesperson said.

“We apologise for the technical error and will take the necessary steps to correct this issue to ensure no other rider encounters a similar situation.”

Despite Uber’s assurances, the same thing happened in September — the rider once again received unexplained, inconsistent surcharges on their final bill.

MyBroadband asked for further clarity about these charges, but Uber had not answered our questions by the time of publication.

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Uber dodges questions about secret airport fees