Los Angeles International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the United States (and the world), and until a couple days ago was one of a dwindling number of major airports to block ridesharing service pickups. In the war between ride-hailing apps and airports, a new policy around pickups at LAX announced earlier this week seems like a coup.

But L.A. City Council isn’t showing a complete change of heart. There’s some fine print accompanying the new policy. 

During the deliberations that led to the passage of the policy allowing Uber and Lyft to apply for permits allowing their drivers to pick up passengers, Los Angeles City Council agreed to request that the California Public Utilities Commission require fingerprinting of all for-hire drivers, according to the L.A. Times. Such a requirement would encompass more than just ridesharing service drivers: limousine and shuttle drivers would also fall under that umbrella. Cabbies already get fingerprinted in the city.

The council also instructed the city attorney to scope out whether the city has the legal authority on its own to demand fingerprinting if the CPUC, which is the state agency overseeing ride-hailing services, doesn’t push such a requirement through.

The Times recently revealed that Uber's background checks had failed to screen out drivers convicted of serious crimes, including murders. So L.A. might still seek fingerprinting, and if that were to happen it could pose an even greater hurdle for Uber and Lyft than being barred at a major airport. 

Uber has called the requirement onerous and said such a regulation would make it harder for the growing company to recruit new drivers. Lyft has made a similar argument. In conversation with Inc. last week about fingerprinting, Lyft public policy communications manager Chelsea Wilson said fingerprinting would place a burden on part-time drivers, which she said make up the majority of Lyft’s drivers.

Wilson said Lyft’s background check process is “rigorous but not onerous.” 

“By doing that we are really preserving the opportunity for part-time drivers,” she said.

Fingerprinting could also potentially provide fodder for drivers claiming in court that they should be treated as W-2 form employees and not 1099 form independent contractors, according to Aimee E. Delaney, leader of the
 Labor & Employment Practice Group at the Chicago headquarters of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP. 

Uber plans to review the L.A. City Council decision and anticipates bringing its ridesharing services to LAX in the coming weeks, according to a statement from a spokesperson. 

Wilson calls the council decision "great news," but noted in an email, "there are a few more steps before any (transportation network companies) will be operational." 

So what major airport might allow ridesharing next? Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is imminently expected to present a plan to the city's administration for airport pickups. 

Published on: Aug 27, 2015