Uber stops pickups at Ottawa International Airport

There will be no more Uber pickups at the Ottawa International Airport for the foreseeable future after a request by the airport authority.

Uber announces suspension after airport request, made less than two weeks before taxi bylaw report

The departures area at the Ottawa International Airport on Friday, March 18, 2016. Pickups here by Uber drivers aren't happening while the airport authority waits to see how the city's taxi bylaws may change because of a review. (CBC)

Uber has stopped picking passengers up at the Ottawa International Airport after a request from the airport authority.

The ride-hailing service where people request and pay for transportation from registered drivers through their smartphones has been operating widely, but illegally at the airport and across much of the city since it launched in Ottawa in October 2014.

In an email to drivers passed along to CBC News Thursday, Uber Canada said it is "making changes to the pickup experience" at the airport in the coming weeks and in the meantime, the company suspended pickups as of 2 a.m. Friday.

Uber users who tried to get picked up from the Ottawa International Airport were blocked by the app from doing so on Friday. (CBC)

Uber Canada confirmed the change in an email Friday, saying "we are committed to resuming operations as soon as possible with a better experience for riders and drivers."

Users who tried to order a ride from the airport terminal on Friday were unsuccessful, as the app didn't get to the stage where the request for pickup is made.

Uber drivers are still able to drop people off at the airport.

Airport says bylaw decision behind request

A spokesperson for the airport authority said Friday they made the decision when they did because of the upcoming city decision on potentially reworking its taxi bylaw.

Krista Kealey said the airport authority wants to be ready in case Uber becomes legal and could be a potential partner, so to go forward in good faith, Uber has to stop pickups for now because they don't have a contract.

Kealey said the airport authority is happy Uber agreed to their request.

The office of city councillor Diane Deans, the chair of the Community and Protective Services committee, said Friday the report will be released March 31 with a special committee meeting to follow April 7.

There is potential for the meeting to continue the following day if it's needed, her office said.

Financial stakes

Uber was a factor in the labour dispute between airport taxi drivers and their dispatch company Coventry Connections that began last summer over an increase in the fee taxi drivers paid for the right to pick up at the airport.

That hike had been negotiated between Conventry Connections and the airport authority.

Unionized taxi drivers said at the time they were already losing business to Uber and didn't want to pay the increased fee.

On Friday, a taxi driver at the Ottawa International Airport, who didn't want to be named, pointed out it's unfair for Uber drivers to not pay a pickup fee if taxi drivers do.

Money was also on the mind of people who took Uber from the airport before Friday.

Jessica Rashed says the price difference between cheaper Uber and more expensive taxis means she's disappointed Ubers aren't picking people up there. (CBC)

"I'm pretty disappointed because it's really expensive no matter where you're going from the airport," said Jessica Rashed. 

"(For one destination) I actually happened to check a few days ago, I did a fare estimate, it would have cost $13. I know from before, two months ago, it would have cost $40 by cab."

However, some wondered why change had taken so long.

"I feel like they should probably be regulated similar to a cab company… until that happens, I don't see why I should be able to use it the same as a cab," said Chad Atton, an occasional Uber user who was visiting from Dallas.