Uber, Ottawa airport reach deal to pick up passengers

When Uber secures an operating licence and officially becomes legal in Ottawa — which could happen as early as Friday — Uber drivers will be allowed to make pickups and drop-offs at the Ottawa airport.

Uber expected to secure operating licence in Ottawa Friday

Taxis waits for passengers at the Ottawa airport on Wednesday. If the ride-hailing company Uber secures a licence and becomes legal in Ottawa, its drivers will soon join the taxis here. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

When Uber secures an operating licence and officially becomes legal in Ottawa — which could happen as early as Friday — Uber drivers will be allowed to make pickups and drop-offs at the Ottawa airport.

"Because we've always offered our passengers choice, it made sense to include [Uber] in the offering, particularly because our passengers have been demanding it," said Krista Kealey, vice president of communications and public affairs of the Ottawa Airport Authority, on Wednesday.
Krista Kealey, vice president of communications with the Ottawa Airport Authority, says the decision to welcome Uber was driven by customer demand. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

Last spring, the City of Ottawa passed new "vehicle-for-hire regulations" bringing ride-hailing services such as Uber in line with the city's taxi bylaws, becoming the first jurisdiction in Ontario to do so.

The new rules come into effect Friday. They dictate that companies such as Uber must secure an operating licence to operate legally.

Uber Canada officials told CBC News the company intends to be fully compliant with the new bylaw by Friday.

The app-based ride-hailing service has operated illegally in Ottawa since October 2014, disrupting the traditional taxi industry in the city.

'Black day for taxis'

Most taxi drivers parked in the waiting area at the airport Wednesday morning deferred comment to their union. Raj Deol, who's been driving a taxi for 17 years, did express his disappointment. 

"It's very difficult to pay our bills," said Deol. "It's a black day for taxis."
Adam Bekhor of Toronto says he was shocked to discover Uber wasn't an option when he landed at the Ottawa airport.

Passengers passing through the airport felt differently about the Uber deal. Many, including André Morriseau, said they'll consider using Uber instead of taxis.

"I say fantastic. People should have options," said Morriseau.

​Adam Bekhor said he was shocked when he landed at the Ottawa airport Tuesday and discovered Uber wasn't an option to get to downtown. Bekhor said Uber is his first choice for getting to and from airports.

​"By the time the bags come, the car's waiting for me," said Bekhor. "It's almost like, I don't want to say having a limo waiting for you, but the exact same thing, it's an arranged car. And not having to wait in a line, especially in the winter."

At the same time, Bekhor said he feels for the taxi drivers.

"I am sympathetic. These cab drivers are trying to make a living, and I get that. But unfortunately technology doesn't stop for anyone or anything," added Bekhor.

Dedicated pickup area for Uber

The Ottawa Airport Authority is not releasing details of the deal with Uber Canada, citing confidentiality for commercial agreements.

However Kealey did say Wednesday that the deal is in line with other agreements the airport authority has with other service providers, including taxi companies.

As is the case for taxis picking up passengers, Kealey said an area in the arrival lanes will be reserved for Uber and other car services.

"We're going to have a portion of the public curb dedicated to ride-sharing services, and it will be marked," said Kealey