It’s not always obvious which Uber service you should use when you’re traveling to the airport, carrying luggage, or traveling with a big group. You have to figure out how many people each Uber service can fit, how much luggage the car can accommodate, and how much the ride will cost.
In this post, I explain how to use Uber for airports and trips with large groups so you end up requesting the right ride.
Uber now picks up passengers from most airports, but not all. An Uber will drop you off at nearly every airport in the US, but some airports don’t allow you to request X and XL rides FROM the airport. Check Uber.com/cities for info about the airport you plan to visit.
Which Uber service to use when you’re carrying luggage
- 1 person with luggage: UberX
- 2 people with luggage: UberX
- 2 people with many pieces of luggage: UberXL
- 3 people with luggage: UberXL
- 4 to 6 people with luggage: 2 Uber Xs or 2 XLs
Is Uber available at your airport? Check uber.com/airports
Most airports allow Uber drivers to drop you off, but not all airports allow drivers to pick you up. To find out if you can get picked up from the airport you’re flying into, head to uber.com/airports and search through the listed airports. Uber has instructions that help you figure out where to go to request your ride.
UberX – For groups up to 4 (2-3 with luggage)
UberX is the low-cost Uber service for up to 4 riders. A group of 3 will be comfortable in almost any Uber X car. UberX drivers favor small, economical cars that technically can fit 4, but it’s a tight squeeze. Groups of 4 will feel cramped in the smaller UberX cars — think Ford Focus, Mazda3, Honda Civic, etc.
Not all UberX cars are alike. Your UberX car may be a big, roomy Toyota Camry with lots of room for luggage, or a cramped Toyota Prius C hatchback with little room for luggage and barely enough room for 4 grown adults.
UberX is the cheapest Uber service, typically costing around $1/mile and $0.20/minute.
UberXL – For groups of 5–7 riders (2-4 with luggage)
UberXL is the correct service to use if you have more than 4 people in your group, but no more than 6 or 7. However, if you’re a group of 6 full-size adults, you might want another person in your group to request a second ride so everyone can be comfortable.
Some XL vehicles have very small third-row seating (Honda Pilot), and some are larger SUVs with plenty of room for groups and luggage. You never know what you’re going to get, so if you’re pushing the upper capacity limit, it’s smart to order 2 rides.
UberXL is nearly twice as expensive as UberX, around $2/mile and $0.35/minute.
Uber SUV – For larger groups willing to pay for a more luxurious vehicle
The Uber SUV service is made up of larger, luxury SUVs driven by commercially registered drivers. Like an XL, Uber SUV vehicles can hold 5–7 passengers.
UberSUV is the most expensive option — Minimum fares are around $25 and you’ll pay around $4/mile. Remember, UberX typically only costs $1/mile.
Airports and travelers: Getting the right Uber when you have luggage
Many Uber users who own their own cars and avoid the late-night bar scene will only ever use Uber to get to the airport and back.
Luggage is the big complication with airport Uber rides that causes a lot of confusion — which car will be big enough to fit your stuff? The conventional wisdom to take an UberX for groups of 4 or less and an XL for groups of 5–7 doesn’t always apply to airport trips because luggage can take up a lot of room, especially if you’re a heavy packer.
Smaller UberX cars can’t hold much luggage, so even if you only have 2 or 3 people, you may need to request the larger XL service.
You can schedule an Uber, but it’s not always reliable. Check the app for driver availability 30 minutes before you need to leave
There is a scheduling feature inside the Uber app that will automatically send out a ride request at the time you specifiy. But be warned: A driver doesn’t get your request in advance. The app simply sends out an automated request at the time you specify. So if there aren’t any available drivers, nobody will accept your request. To avoid any problems, this is the best practice for airports:
- Check the app the day before your trip to see availability. Open up the Uber app at the time of day you think you’ll need to leave. See if there are Uber drivers available nearby, and use that information to plan for the next day.
- Check the app 30 minutes before you need a ride. See if there are drivers available nearby. If there are, you can wait to request your ride until 5-10 minutes before you need to leave. If there aren’t many cars available, request the ride around 20 minutes before you need to leave for the airport.
What to do when you request the wrong Uber service
Mistakes happen. Sometimes you order an Uber and discover that it’s not large enough for your group, or doesn’t have room for all of your luggage. What should you do?
If your Uber doesn’t have enough room for you, your group, or your stuff, you can:
- Have a second person in your group download the app and request a second UberX or XL
- Cancel the ride and request an XL
Beware of cancellation fees: If you cancel 5 or more minutes after you requested the ride, you’ll be charged $5 for X and XL and $10 for UberSUV. If you re-request other Ubers and end up taking rides, I think you have a good case to email Uber and ask them to refund the cancellation fee. More about Uber’s cancellation fee.
Never pressure the driver to carry more people than they can fit. It’s unsafe, illegal, and it puts the driver in the uncomfortable situation of having to put their foot down and refuse to take extra passengers even if it makes the customer unhappy.
A weird X/XL complication that happens sometimes: UberXL drivers can receive UberX requests, so it’s possible to request an UberX and have an XL car arrive instead. Let’s say you mistakenly request an X with five people in your group and a driver in an XL vehicle arrives. Your group can fit into that car, but you requested the cheaper UberX ride even though you should have requested an XL. In order to be fair to the driver and make sure he gets paid for giving an XL ride, you should cancel and re-request the ride as an UberXL. You’re likely splitting the fare several ways anyway, so an XL won’t cost you much more and the driver will be compensated fairly for taking your larger group.
How much will your ride cost?
The Uber app now has an up-front pricing that shows you how much your ride will cost before you request it. All you have to do is enter your destination into the app and price estimates will appear. The estimate may not factor in surge pricing, so make sure to watch out for that when you request your trip. If surge pricing is in effect when you request your ride (you’ll be notified), try using Lyft instead, or waiting out the surge.
You can split Uber fares inside the app
When you’re riding with a group, only one person requests the ride, but an Uber app feature allows you to split the fare. After your ride starts, tap on the driver’s picture, find the “Split Fare” button, and select the other passengers you want to split the ride with you. Each person will be charged equally, with a $0.25 transaction fee added on top.
An alternative: You can schedule your ride in advance with Blacklane
Taking an Uber to the airport is cheaper and more convenient than a cab, but the lack of a reliable scheduling feature might make you anxious when you have a plane to catch. Blacklane is a ride-hailing app that allows you to schedule your ride in advance with professional drivers who are commercially licensed and insured. It’s more expensive than Uber, but it can be a more reliable way to get to the airport.