Lyft and Uber riders at Los Angeles International Airport will spend less time waiting curbside for their ride if a new program at the airport is a success.
Dubbed Rematch, the program pairs ride-hailing drivers dropping a passenger off at the airport with another traveler waiting to be picked up. The near-instant process is designed to slash wait times for travelers and cut back on traffic in the often-packed terminal area.
It’s part of the airport’s efforts to cut back on traffic through the main loop around the airport, said Keith Wilschetz, deputy executive director for operations and emergency management for Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX.
“In general, the guest experience is very, very important to us in every aspect of this airport and, certainly, for people driving to the airport, the Central Terminal Area traffic is the first that they experience at this airport,” Wilschetz said. “Right now it’s not where we want it to be, and this is one way that we can start improving our guest experience.”
Thus far, the program, which rolled out for Uber drivers about six weeks ago and for Lyft operators roughly two weeks ago, has reduced the number of pickups around the airport’s central loop by 35 percent, he said.
Normally, ride-hailing drivers are limited to either dropping off or picking up passengers, meaning they could not take on a new fare once another traveler leaves the car. If drivers wanted to pick up someone leaving the airport, they would have to wait in an off-site staging area in virtual queue with other drivers to take departing travelers in a first-come first-served system.
Rematch changes that. Now, drivers dropping someone off at their terminal will have a short window when they can be notified that a new passenger is ready to be picked up.
The change is designed to streamline the drop-off and pick-up process and reduce wait times for riders, a common complaint among travelers waiting to leave the airport.
On a Thursday morning in July, Debby Ball was waiting for an Uber driver between Terminals 1 and 2. The app on her phone indicated she should have only one minute left to wait for her driver but, after 10 minutes, she still had no ride.
Other passengers said Ball’s problem was a common one, and that they’re used to waiting three times as long for their driver as the app estimates.
It’s not unusual for the delay…