Ride-share companies are also rolling out a system where passengers who request a ride receive a code that they can give to any car in the Lyft or Uber line rather than searching for a specific driver. It mimics the traditional taxi line, but payment comes through the app. Uber introduced the system about two years ago for large events, like concerts. “Getting in line is much easier than figuring out which of the Toyota Priuses driving by is the one you are supposed to take,” Ms. Gandham said.
Both Lyft and Uber introduced the feature this summer at La Guardia Airport in New York City.
With air travel and ride-sharing increasing around the world, travelers in other countries may be facing the same problems. Airport congestion “varies greatly and is typically more challenging in major hubs across the world,” Mr. Womack said. Uber works with airports in 63 countries; Lyft operates in the United States and Canada.
Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said that the authority is “in the midst of a $30 billion investment program to completely transform” the three airports in the New York City metro area. “A key part,” he said, “includes new infrastructure upgrades to handle these app-based services.” In the meantime, the airports have taken several steps, including creating new ride-share pickup areas and putting additional staff members at congestion points to direct traffic.
Airports are also looking beyond ride-share improvements to reduce clogged roadways. Tampa International Airport is doubling the width of its drop-off area and installing express lanes for travelers arriving or departing with carry-on luggage. Passengers dropped in the express area will take an elevator to a tram that bypasses the ticketing area and brings them to security. Travelers landing at the airport without checked luggage can take a direct route to the exit without going through the baggage claim area.
Joe Lopano, the Tampa airport’s chief executive, said the airport was lucky to have the space it needed to meet the demands of the 23 million passengers it expects in 2020. “There’s a shift in customer preference to being dropped off instead of parking,” Mr. Lopano said. “I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
Sherry Stein, head of technology strategies for the Americas at the air travel technology company SITA, said passengers want the time from their couch or office to the airplane gate to be predictable. She said more airports are monitoring traffic conditions leading to the airport and crowds inside on security lines so they can give an estimate, via a phone app, of how long it will take to get to the gate. “As digital natives become the main consumers, they expect self-service though their phone,” she said, and this is an example of the information that could be supplied to them.