Coming from Sydney Airport: Domestic Terminal – a follow up

Something to help both passengers and drivers to get away from the airport quickly, smoothly and a little less painfully. And not just for those using Uber either.

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priority pick up tunnel
The tunnel from the terminal buildings to the priority pick-up area. Though its not the best view, if you look closely you can see a part of the problem I’m talking about.

Last month I posted about using Uber in relation to the domestic terminal at Sydney Airport. One of the things I wrote about was that when requesting an Uber pick up from the terminal, to go to the priority pick-up area. There is a detail that I left out that in my head was obvious to everyone, but apparently not. It’s to do with where people stand when waiting for their ride, and where they actually get into the car that’s picking them up.

I think the issue comes at least in part from the nature of the pick-up area itself. To the best of my knowledge, its an area that’s been converted and adapted from some other use, rather than it being something that was there from the beginning in the design of the domestic airport. Anyone who’s at all familiar with the layout of the domestic airport knows that its two separate terminal buildings on either side of an elongated loop of road, with a number of car parking areas inside the loop which also double as space for car rental agencies. An area in the middle of these car parks has been carved out for the priority pick-up area.

The passengers looking to be picked up in this area cross the road from the terminal building their plane pulled up from, and follow the signs along an above ground tunnel to the area itself, and here is where the problem lies. Essentially in the middle of the pick-up area is a utility building of some kind. I don’t know what its for, though it being connected in some way to the underground train station for the domestic terminal wouldn’t surprise me, because the non-airport entrance/exit to the station is only a very short distance a way. The issue is that the main waiting area for passengers in the pick-up area is on the other side of this building from where passengers arrive. There’s also what could appear to be a waiting area for passengers on the “near”-side of the utility building.

All of that means that – especially for people who are new to the city, new to the airport, new to using Uber from the airport, or are just not used to the system don’t know to keep walking to the other side of the building, especially if there are a few people already standing around. Not only does it make it harder for the passengers to see the car their looking for because they can only spot it as the car rounds the corner about 10 metres away, but it tends to block up the single lane of cars trying to move between the utility building and the edge of the pick-up area.
Anyone who drives knows that seeing a group of people standing on the footpath right next to a pedestrian crossing is problematic, because you can’t be sure whether any of those people – or the ones you might not be able to see on the other side of the group – are actually trying to cross the road or not. In this case, the car’s probably already going slowly so that’s not too big an issue here, but having to slow down or stop because of the people crossing means that at least some passengers waiting in this spot see their ride essentially stop in front of them, and decide that they should get in the car while they can. If its just one or two people getting in, with no luggage or at least nothing that needs to go in the boot, that can be done often be done with little or no impact on the flow of cars. But if there’s several passengers, a number of bags for the boot, or even just passengers that aren’t being as quick as they can to get in the car, it can cause the cars behind to come to a stop, causing a knock on effect back up the chain. At some times of day that can cause big issues for a lot of other people.

This same effect can happen near the car entrance to the pick-up area. It’s especially likely if there’s already a bit of a hold up to the flow of traffic, which may be coming from the issue I just mentioned. If the drivers and passengers involved are paying attention the effect can at least be minimised as there’s more space for other cars to go around the stopped car in the pick-up, but it can still result in the entrance to the car park being blocked off, again causing a queue of cars to form over quite a distance at the wrong time of day.

In an ideal world, passengers would wait near the car entrance, paying attention so that they can spot the car that’s picking them up as early as possible. They’d then wave or otherwise signal to their car – generally speaking this area is for professional pick-ups, so the driver won’t likely know what their passenger looks like. When this works, IO then signal to my passenger where I’m going to stop to let them in, usually with just a simple point to the direction I’m headed. In my head it doesn’t just let them know where to walk to, but also an acknowledgment that I’ve seen them (if I haven’t already done that) so they don’t think I’m either not paying attention, partially blind, or just being rude and ignoring them. The key element of this though is that they wait for me to pull up in a parking spot – or at least somewhere as out of the way as possible depending on the levels of chaos at the time – rather than trying to get in when I happen to almost stop for some other reason. I can then get out to help them with their luggage if they need it, whether it be hefting their things into the boot, playing Tetris with their bags so they’ll all fit, or just getting the boot open as some people have struggled with the door in the past, possibly thinking I’d locked it or wasn’t remotely opening it for them. (For the record, my current car doesn’t have that feature.)

So please help us drivers – both professional and… Amateur? Recreational? Social? Not sure what they right term is here – to keep things smooth not just for yourself but for everyone in the vicinity. Taking just a few extra steps along the path will help everyone, and the happier your driver is, the less likely any little jiggly things will seem big enough to rate you less than 5-stars.

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Sydney Airport: Train v Uber

A not-at-all in-depth comparison of the costs of travelling from the Sydney Airport via train versus via Uber.

Before I go into today’s article, I want to mention something up front. On Sunday – when this was written – a construction crane collapsed onto an apartment building in Wolli Creek. At the time of writing, three people were reported injured, with the most serious being a possible broken leg. In addition to this, 200 residents of both buildings affected were evacuated. (The building the crane collapsed on, and the building it had been mounted on.) There are two reasons why I mention this up front:

  1. It’s what prompted me to publish this post, even though the incident itself isn’t Uber-related.
  2. I am aware that the people I’m going to refer to here were affected in a comparatively minor way. Obviously those injured and evacuated had and have it much worse.

If it seems like I’m being disrespectful to or dismissive of them, that is definitely not my intention. Except to say that I hope their situation is dealt with quickly, safely and fairly, I won’t be talking any further about them only because they’re not part of a topic relevant to this site.

Sunday mornings can be interesting times to drive with Uber. In fact Sundays tend to be pretty good throughout the day. Whereas on a weekday there’s usually a lull around lunch time, Sunday’s are pretty consistent in terms of being able to find passengers wanting a ride. The usual reason Sunday mornings are interesting is the number of passengers making the “Uber of shame” from the night before.

Last Sunday had a couple of rides that seemed like they could’ve qualified for that, one of which got me close to the airport. Knowing from experience what at least Melbourne and Brisbane Airports are like on Sundays, I figured it wouldn’t take too long for the queue of drivers to cycle through and for me to get a decent fare, so I headed to the domestic terminal waiting area. I wasn’t wrong, though the reason the queue moved as quickly as it did wasn’t one I was expecting.

When I first got to the pick-up area I was surprised by how quiet it looked. Given the speed with which the queue had moved for me I expected there to be quite a few people waiting to be picked up, along with a corresponding number of cars waiting for their passengers to appear. Instead it looked fairly empty. As a drove around the u-shape of the pick-up area, I got to a point where I could see where the passengers would be walking to reach the car park, and the outside entrance to the train station. What I saw there was not dissimilar to this:

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Imagine this at the station entrance, but everyone has at least one large bag or suitcase with them. That’s roughly what it looked like on the day.
As I was processing this I saw someone waving at me who turned out to be my passenger, so I didn’t get much of a chance to sort it out in my head. (I’m sure you already have, but any friends of mine reading this, this is a perfect opportunity for you to make a joke about not being able to sort it out even if I had plenty of time to do it. Your welcome.) They told me that there’d been some sort of incident that meant the Airport train line was closed. Apparently it had only recently happened, with passengers being directed to different places by different people to catch replacement buses that were being organised but hadn’t started to arrive yet.

After I dropped the passenger off, I did some checking and sure enough found this alert:

I continued on through my day, while seeing similar scenes at Sydenham and Mascot stations, with people waiting at bus stops for their replacement bus (or in my case, their Uber) to arrive. When I got home, I saw some tweets that indicated people weren’t happy with how leaving Sydney Airport had gone:

What I found interesting and surprising with these and others that I saw, was that the people complaining seemed to be unaware of Uber. Whether they had never heard of it, had the idea that it wasn’t allowed for pick-ups at the airport (it’s been OK for over a year now), thought it was more expensive than using the train, or some other reason I don’t know. (It’s also possible that they reject the idea of using Uber given recent negative press. I would hope that’s not the case, for fairly obvious reasons.)

In terms of cost, I don’t have all the details and though the cost for a train trip is relatively easy to find out ahead of time, the cost of Uber trips are a little more tricky, given that they depend on the specific route and time taken for the trip. What I can do is show you the comparison between trips I’ve actually done and the costs for a trip to the nearest station. Like this:

[table id=1 /]

To keep things above board, the costs for the train trips come from Sydney Trains themselves, and were correct when written. (If poked about it to remind me, I’ll probably update them if prices change while this site is still active.) Any costs relating to getting from the station to the destination would be on top of these. The costs for the Uber fares are using UberX, from real rides I’ve driven since a couple of weeks before the date this is published. They include all costs to the passenger relating to the fare such as tolls, and have the potential to vary a bit based on the time of day the ride took place and the traffic on the route taken.

Also keep in mind that those train trip fares are for one person when an UberX can fit up to four people, though possibly less if you’ve got a lot of luggage, and that the Uber trip is right to your destination, which means unless you live on top of or at a train station you’ll either have less distance to walk with your bags, won’t have to get a bus or other ride from the station to where you’re going, or both.

So it seems that for short trips near the airport, Uber is cheaper than getting the train. It makes sense since the minimum Uber fare in Sydney is $9, less than the airport station access fee. A little beyond that and the train is cheaper for one person, but more expensive for two. Uber trips to the city that have to go through the city (so around the harbour foreshore) tend to be about the same cost as between two or three people on the train. None of the fares I’ve done in the time frame shown have been more expensive than four equivalent train fares.

Generally speaking, getting the train from the airport will be cheaper for one person than getting an Uber. The more people travelling though, the more likely that an Uber will be the cheaper option. But remember:

  • The train doesn’t get you to your front door, meaning either a walk, bus, taxi, Uber or ride from a friend to get all the way home. An Uber will go all the way in one go.
  • You may have to wait up to 15 minutes for the train to arrive to pick you up. An Uber will normally take no more than 5 minutes to arrive.
  • There’s no one to help you with your luggage on the train. Most Uber drivers will at least help you get your luggage into and out of their car.
  • Unless you happen to be on the airport line, you’ll have to change trains to get to your destination. An Uber will take you door-to-door.
  • Its tough getting even a section of a train carriage, let alone the whole thing to yourself. That means other people’s conversations, music, food, and general life intruding on your’s. You don’t share an Uber except with your friends or family. Your driver won’t force conversation or weird smells on you and will let you listen to your music in peace.
  • The closest thing to climate control on a train is being able to open a window, and that’s generally only on the older carriages. You can adjust the windows, adjust the temperature of the AC, even the direction the air vents point in an Uber.

With all those benefits – and any others you might think of – is it worth the money you might save to get the train instead of an Uber? Next time I’m flying somewhere, I know how I’ll be getting to and from the airport…

When Your Passenger Can’t Find You, Right In Front Of Their Nose

Sometimes Uber drivers can struggle to find the right place for the pickup. The GPS points to the wrong bit of road, the roads are confusing because they’re as far from being grid-like as possible. The street numbers just can’t be seen. But sometimes you’re in the exact right spot, so is the passenger, but they still can’t find you.

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“I know the app says the Uber driver’s arrived here, and there’s a car that pulled up right in front of me about the time the app said he arrived, but where is that Uber?”

Most of the time when I’ve written about things that have happened to me, in my vicinity, or that were caused by me, generally there’s been some separation in time between their occurrence and their appearance here. But this story is prompted by two events that occurred yesterday, so its as hot off the presses as I’ve gotten.

Sometimes it can be tricky for an Uber driver to work out exactly where to park the car to pickup the passenger. Given that a specific location for the pickup is provided to the driver, accompanied by GPS-based directions to that location from wherever they were when they accepted the ride, I can understand some people reading that last sentence and thinking I’m a bumbling fool that should never get behind the wheel of a car, let alone do so professionally. There are all sorts of reasons why an intelligent, fully awake and sober driver might get a little confused. They’re usually relatively minor things, like when a building is on a corner or when the street numbers aren’t visible (usually at night) so you can’t tell which side of the road to be on. (Both of these are easier when the passenger is ready, standing on the footpath, and has been paying enough attention to know you’re their driver and signals you as you approach. *cough* hint! *cough*) Once I had a situation where the GPS coordinates and the street number didn’t match up, so there was literally two possiblities for where I was supposed to be. Thankfully that confusing situation has only happened the one time. So far.

Most of the time there’s no problem from the driver’s end. Even when there’s something that could cause an issue, either locations that could have multiple pickup points – train stations that have entrances on both sides of the tracks are a common one for this – or situations where there’s lots of people around so finding each other will be difficult, the really helpful passengers will get in touch and clarify the situation: “I’m at the bus stand, standing outside the newsagents,” or “I’m wearing the green shirt with the red backpack,”… you get the idea. Every once in a while though, you’ll be in the exact right spot for the pickup and the passenger still won’t be able to find you.

Like I said before, it happened to me twice yesterday. Though both are at least somewhat understandable when you get the full picture, they are still a little odd. The first one was in the morning, where I was picking someone up from the international terminal at Sydney Airport. It was a busy time, with cars in all of the available spaces and then some. I managed to find a spot, and as the spots go in that car park probably one of the most easily visible ones. Once I pulled up, I did my customary scan of the area, looking for someone that had either spotted me and was headed my way, or had what I call “The Look”. I would guess that every person who’s driven for Uber would recognise it, and has probably used it to correctly pick the passenger from a group of people before they’ve even noticed you. It’s mostly holding their phone out in front of them, looking at it with a fairlay intense amount of concentration, and then looking up around them, depending on the circumstances either where they think you’re approaching from or scanning the parked cars around them for you. I don’t know what my success rate is in picking passengers out this way, but I’ll bet its higher than you’d expect given the only fact we’ve got to identify them is a name.

Anyway, I did my scan and though there were a few contenders none were jumping out at me. After a few moments I sent my usual message to the passenger explaining I’d arrived and roughly where I was in the car park. (Note to Sydney Airport people: using some sort of numbering system like in shopping centre car parks would be very helpful for both terminals. Being able to tell passengers that I was at spot A7 would be much faster and easier to understand for everyone.) Just as I send it, I get a call from the passenger. I’m pretty that because of the timing they haven’t seen my message, and so answer the call. They ask if I’ve arrived yet and where I am. I can hear wind in the background so I know that unless they’ve gone to the wrong place – not unusual for the international terminal, especially for foreign visitors – they should be visible, and because I’d just scanned for them I knew that most of the people around were in front of me.

img_0235
Hey buddy, that car you’re waiting for is the blue one behind you. At the location you set for the pick up instead of where you’re standing.

As I’m talking I look around, and sure enough the only person on the phone is at most five metres away from my car. Watching him speak, I see the normal delay of a second or two between his lips moving and sound coming through the phone, but that the two are otherwise synchronised. It’s odd the first few times you notice it, but the delay is kind of like making an international call in the old days where you’d ask a question and wait what felt like days for the response. A few brief instructions later (“I’m the white car that’s on your left… No, you’ve turned you’re head too far. Back a bit to the right and then right in front of you… Yes, that’s me.”) and we’d sorted it out and on our way to the destination.

The other event was at the end of the day for me. I’m guessing most Sydney-siders would’ve heard at least something about a burst water main in Hurstville yesterday. It caused a lot of problems for people trying to get to or from there through out the day, especially for people relying on buses to transport them apparently. Well this passenger of mine was trying to get home, and discovered the issues of the buses from Hurstville station so tried to get an Uber from there, but King Georges Road being blocked off made traffic in the area a nightmare, meaning an Uber from there was going to take forever to arrive, so she got back on a train to another station and tried again. As relayed to me, the first Uber she requested from there just drove past her (a phone conversation with someone else once we were on our way suggested that she thought she might have accidentally cancelled the ride), so she made another request, got me, and called me as it happened just as I was looking for a spot to park. she wanted to make sure that I knew where I was going because of the difficulties she’d had – I’d later find out she’d been delayed in getting home by at least two hours. I explained that I couldn’t find a spot to pull over as I’d driven past, and had just found a place to make a safe u-turn and was literally in the process of doing so, and would be there in maybe sixty seconds. (This call was all on hands free for anyone concerned on that point.)

Sure enough I got back to the spot which was a dedicated pick up/drop off point for the station. There were already a couple of cars there, with a SUV right in front of me, meaning my car was going to be harder to spot. I was pretty confident I could see my passenger standing at the kerb through the windows of the car in front. I was about to call the passenger to let her know I was there, when I realised that all of the cars in front of me had their indicators on to pull out. A few moments later they did and I moved up next to the potential passenger, but they didn’t get in. They still had The Look, so I assumed they were waiting for someone else. No one else was around with anything like The Look, so figured they’d ducked into a shop while they were waiting for me to come back after the phone call. Not great etiquette from them if that was the case, but not a big deal.

A minute or so later I got another call from the passenger. She wanted to know where I was, and I explained I was right on top of the pick up point. She asked me if I could see the Subway that she’d said she was in front of before, so I started looking around and sure enough, the woman I’d picked out when I’d first pulled up, who was still standing in the same spot she’d been in the whole time which was now about level with my rear bumper, was now on the phone. Just at the moment I confirmed it was her via the same international-style phone delay, she realised who I was and got in the car slightly embarrassed. Though in both cases I was a little frustrated at the delays involved – though only a minute or so at a time, they can add up, and its time we don’t get paid for unless the passenger winds up being a no-show, and even then that’s still an issue – it was both minor enough and slightly amusing to me to not be a problem. I found out about the delays she’d had in getting home, a tough day at work, and the need to pack for a flight the next morning had all combined to leave her a little frazzled, understandably so.

If you request an Uber and are having problems connecting with the driver, remember that you’re phone will show you where we are. Though neither of these passengers got accusational about what I was doing and why I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, some in the past have and almost certainly some will be in the future. Though us drivers are by no means perfect, just because a mistake is made doesn’t mean it’s automatically been made by the driver.

It’s going to be a while before I can get there…

A GPS mixup that might have otherwise set the record for longest and most expensive Uber trip. At least in Australia.

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Not the expected view for a Sydney Uber driver while on the clock.
So a little while ago I posted about a situation where a potential customer decided to cancel a trip that would have involved going from Cronulla to Dunedin, or the south of Sydney to the South Island of New Zealand. I thought it would have to be a one off situation where the passenger somehow either messed up the pickup location or the destination. Maybe it happens more often than I originally thought. Let me explain…

At the start of one of my driving days, unless there’s a special event on or there’s surge pricing happening somewhere near me, I head in the direction of Sydney Airport: you’re guaranteed to get a ride of some sort, and it’s been the starting point for at least the two longest rides I’ve ever had. Most days I get a ride at some point before I reach the airport, but if I don’t I’ll still get a ride from the airport. Well one day recently, I got to the airport without a ride, so pulled up in our waiting area and settled in to wait.

After a longer wait than I would like – but shorter than it can be – I got a ping for a pickup from the domestic terminal, and headed over to the pickup area. Normally when I do a pickup from the domestic terminal, by the time I get to the pickup area the passenger’s waiting for me, but these time seemed to be one of the other times where I beat them there – as no one waved at me as I came around the corner, or any other signs of recognition – so I headed in and parked. When I get there first at the airport, I send a text message to the passenger to let them know I’m ready, and help them be able to find me, and I got this response:

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I’ve been to Sydney Airport a bunch of times, and I would think its pretty likely I’ve got more than average knowledge about the layout, including that there’s three terminals. So when I see “T4”, I don’t know what they mean. After a moment or two, I wonder if they meant “P4” referring to a car park. I don’t know all the car park numbers, but I know that the lower numbers are at the domestic terminal and that they go at least as high as P9, which is over at the international terminal. Though I wouldn’t realise it until a minute or two later, it was probably very lucky that I specifically said “Sydney” airport in my follow up message. If I hadn’t, we might’ve been going back and forth for a while before working out what the issue was.

The rest is pretty simple: the passenger cancelled the ride, and I moved out of the pickup area to go back to the queue for the next pickup.

sydney to perth
Again, the flight looks like the best option.
Though this trans-continental trip seems equally strange as the trans-Tasman one I talked about before, I have a little more information to work with. For instance, in this one I know where the passenger was when they booked the ride, as well as where they wanted to go. (Like the last one, I saw the actual destination address after the cancellation fee came through.) I also have a little context: that they were trying to do a trip from an airport. I think that they may have flown from Sydney to Perth, and were trying to get home. My guess is that they maybe took an Uber to Sydney Airport, flew to Perth, and that they took their phone off airplane mode just before booking their ride. They were so quick in doing so – they had their home address already loaded in the app – that it hadn’t updated the GPS location from when their phone was last on, booking it from Sydney rather than Perth. Regardless, it was another entertaining few moments for me. Especially when I worked out that I would’ve been paid about $5,500 for the ride, easily the most for a single ride in my time as a driver, and that was if I drove the Google-estimated 40 hour ride straight through.

So when you book an Uber, and you’re not typing in the address for the pickup and are just using GPS, give it a few moments to update, and double-check that the app thinks you’re in the right state.

Going to and coming from Sydney Airport: Domestic Terminal

The ins and outs of getting in and out of Sydney Airport’s domestic terminal.

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Sydney Airport, with the Domestic Terminal (T2 & T3) on the left
and the International Terminal (T1) at the bottom

Two weeks ago I posted about using Uber at the international terminal of Sydney Airport. It was originally going cover both terminals but it started to get to be a bit long overall, so this week you get the second half, covering the domestic terminal.

Now just as last week I gave a disclaimer, I’m giving the same one here as well: things change. I can all but guarantee that at some point after this is originally posted, either Sydney Airport or Uber will change how they operate and at least some part of this post will no longer be correct. Though I’ll try my best to update it if there are changes, if the date on this is long in the past when you’re reading it, you can always check Ride Uber at Sydney Airport for the latest info from Uber themselves.

Heading to the airport

If you’re going to be flying somewhere within Australia, you’ll be flying out of the domestic terminal. However there’s a snag that can catch some people up: the domestic terminal is actually two seperate buildings: T2 and T3. (T1 is the international terminal, in case you’re wondering.) Now your boarding pass, itinerary, or whatever other documentation you’ve got for your flight will probably indicate T2 or T3, but don’t be too concerned about remembering or forgetting that detail. Just remember which airline you’re flying with: Qantas domestic flights fly out of T3, while all other domestic flights fly out of T2. I expect most drivers will check with you at some point on the trip about either which terminal or which airline you’re using, as though its not nearly as bad as being at the international terminal by mistake, being dropped off at the wrong building and getting to the correct one ranges from ‘minor inconvenience’ if you’ve got plenty of time to ‘#$%@&^’ if you’re supposed to be boarding the plane right now.

Leaving the Airport

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Make sure you’re being picked up from the domestic terminal.

The basic process is pretty much the same for the domestic terminal as it is for the international, just some of the details are a little different. You’re looking for the “Priority Pickup Area” rather than the express, and instead of yellow signs you should follow the green signs. (Just to be slightly confusing, there is an express pickup area for the domestic terminal, and like at the international terminal, its marked by yellow signs. To be less confusing, the path to the express pickup area is the same as the priority one, only you continue past the priority area to reach the express.) For those of you who have an idea about the layout of the domestic terminal, the priority pickup area is in between T2 and T3, part of the parking structures for them.

The pickup area is essentially split in two, with a covered area for passengers to wait in the middle. Cars enter the area on the right-hand side (when facing the way you were when you enter the area) and leave from the left. Assuming you don’t spot your driver’s car as you approach and enter the area – or haven’t heard from them letting you know exactly where they are – by all means head where everyone else is likely to be waiting: the covered area, facing the vehicle entrance to the car park.

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Confirm you’re pick up from the Priority Pick-Up area.

However, please don’t expect your driver to wait just inside the entrance for you to get in their car, especially if you have luggage that may need to be loaded in the boot. Though it is easy for the driver to stop there, its very difficult for anyone else to get past the car, causing delays for everyone. In fact if you get to the pickup area ahead of your driver and its a busy period, you may notice others do the same thing, blocking the entrance and delaying your driver in arriving. When I enter the pickup area, I scan the faces of the waiting passengers for a look of recognition headed my way. (A wave at me works too.) If they start heading my way I’ll signal them that I’m headed around the other side. This means they won’t have to go to far, I can pull up out of the way of the other cars, I can park in a valid spot to help with any luggage they have – whether it be just getting it into the car, or putting down seats and tetris-ing the bags to fit into the space – and it’ll save them a tiny amount on the fare for the shorter distance and time on the ride. Likewise if I don’t get any recognition, I head to the that other side. (Its marked as the “B” area, with “A” being the entrance side, and “C” being the expanded area that’s under cover from the rest of the parking structure, and in my experience at least is rarely actually used.) That’s where I send my “here I am” message to the rider from.

It applies to every ride, especially at the airport where it isn’t always clear how everything is supposed to work, and even more especially to the occassional flyer, but if you aren’t sure where you are, where you’re supposed to be, or how to get there, let your driver know. Chances are we’ve got some familiarity with the airport’s layout, and we have a chance to help work out what the problem is. (And it can help avoid accidental trans-continental rides, too.)

Going to and coming from Sydney Airport: International Terminal

The ins and outs of getting in and out of Sydney Airport’s international terminal.

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The international terminal (T1) at Sydney Airport.

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

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Make sure you’re being picked up from the international terminal.

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.

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Confirm you’re pick up from the Express Pick-Up area.

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.