You’re either flying in or out of Sydney. You’ve got plenty of luggage. You don’t want to bug a friend to give you a lift to the airport, or you don’t have a friend to pick you up because you’re on holidays/business trip/something that means you either don’t know anyone here or don’t know them well enough to bug them to pick you up. Public transport won’t work either, because that luggage is going to be awkward on the train or bus, and the ferry and light rail certainly won’t get you all the way.
Despite what some people out there seem to think, you can book an Uber both going to and coming from the airport. Some of the confusion may have come about because initially Sydney Airport didn’t let Uber do pick ups from there. Their reasoning didn’t make sense to me at the time – still doesn’t really – but that doesn’t matter too much now because they changed their minds; they couldn’t stop Ubers from dropping people off at the airport, and at least some passengers found sneaky ways of getting around the blocks that Uber put in the app to try and prevent the pickups from happening. The airport has even accepted Uber, providing areas for us to work at both terminals.
Please keep in mind that things change, particularly it seems at Sydney Airport. So while this information is as correct as I can make it at the moment, if you’re reading this in the future it might be out of date. I’ll endeavor to post updates if and when they’re needed, but just in case you see the official information from Uber at Ride Uber at Sydney Airport.
Initially this post was going to cover both the international and domestic terminals, but it started to get quite long. I’ve split them out into two separate posts now, with this one talking about the international. (You probably guessed that from the title.) Next week’s post will be about the domestic terminal, which if its been posted by the time you’re reading this, will probably be linked to here.
Heading to the airport
Now getting to the airport in an Uber is about as simple as getting to anywhere else. There are a few things to keep in mind, particularly if you’re not a local. First, make sure you know which terminal you need to go to; the international and domestic terminals are on the opposite sides of the airport from each other, which means it is very helpful for your Uber driver to know which terminal you’re headed to ahead of time. Depending on the time of day, traffic around the airport can get a little bogged down. You’re driver will probably check with you when they pick you up which terminal you need to get to – I make sure I do – but putting the right one in as your destination when you book the ride may mean the difference between a panicked race to board your plane and a calm walk to the gate.
Leaving the airport
Uber recommends that for all airports it operates at to request your ride after you’ve “Elvis-ed”… You know, “left the building”. Certainly in the case of Sydney, there are rules about where someone can pick you up from, so once you’ve left the building it should at least minimize how far you’ll have to walk to the actual pick up point. Now where to go works a little differently depending on the specific type of Uber service you’ll use, so I’ll just talk about the main type that most people mean when they say “Uber”: UberX. (Please note, if you’re someone that uses the higher end Uber services like UberBLACK, I’m both happy that you’re reading my blog and surprised; if I’ve not yet set up some sort of donation feature when you’re reading this, feel free to contact me to arrange a donation through Twitter or the contact form to the side of this page.) In the app, it should recognize that you’re at the airport and give you an option between the “International” and “Domestic”, and once you’ve selected the international terminal it’ll confirm the pickup for “Express Pick-Up (Yellow)”. Once confirmed, your driver will be on their way.
As the app suggested, you’re looking for the “Express Pickup Area”, which you should be able to do by following yellow signs. As you come out of the terminal building, you’ll need to walk through the P7 parking building. There is a path you can follow, and unless it was a particularly empty flight or you’re either very fast or slow when walking, there should be a number of people going the same way.
After you come out of the car park building, you’ll need to cross a couple of roadways to get to the pickup area itself. When you’ve done that, you’ll see a covered pedestrian waiting area continuing away from the terminal, and parking areas on both sides of this: you’re Uber driver will be waiting for you on the right-hand side as you walk towards it, not the left – if they’re not waiting for you yet they’ll be making their way to that side.
When I’m picking someone up from here, when I pull up I do a quick scan of the people waiting, and if I don’t spot anyone headed my way or acknowledging me, I’ll send a text message through the Uber app to let them know I’ve made it, and if its particularly busy and so maybe difficult to spot my car amongst the others, I’ll also give some idea of where I’ve parked. If you get to the pickup area and haven’t heard from or found your driver, its a good idea to let your driver know you’re ready, and give them something to look for when they arrive. Remember that we only get your name on our end; we don’t know what you look like, we don’t know how many people are in your group or if you’re alone, or anything else that might help us out. Giving us an idea of whereabouts you are, or what you look like can help us find you and get you on your way to your destination that much faster.
You might be having trouble finding the pickup area. You or someone in your group might only be able to move fairly slowly for one reason or another. If that’s the case, I’d recommend letting your driver know. If a car is in the express pickup area for longer than 15 minutes, it costs the driver $8. Obviously we don’t want to pay that if we don’t have to, and I know that I’m not able to comfortably ask my passengers for the $8 and still legitimately hope for a 5-star rating. I also know that once we find each other, it’ll take a little bit of time to get the luggage packed into the car – especially if there’s a lot and it needs to be rearranged to fit, maybe one of the back seats put down – and to get actually get to the exit gates of the car park, so if I’ve not seen my passengers or heard from them within 10 minutes of entering the pickup area, I’m going to cancel the ride and leave.
However, if I’ve got a message or a call from them, and I know that they’re on the way and they’re just taking a bit more time than usual to get to the pickup area, I can keep the pickup request active and just leave the pickup area and come back to reset the time – essentially circling the block. That will generally be faster for you the passenger than having to make a new request and waiting for the new driver to arrive, especially if you don’t notice straight away that the first driver cancelled. When this happens I let the passenger know that I’m going to leave and come back, so they’re not “abandoned” if they arrive at the pickup area and I’m not there.
And that’s pretty much it. It might seem a little complicated, but plenty of people have done it, and I’ve had more than a few passengers mention to me after I’ve picked them up from the airport that it was their first Uber ride ever. Remember that if you do get confused, lost, or just don’t know what to do, contact your driver and let them know, and there’s a good chance they’ll be able to help you out. Also, the app notices when you’re near the airport and can offer some advice if you need it.