Innovative: Pre-order your Lyft when the plane lands

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Lyft has announced an innovative new offering that launches today and could be the game-changer in my household in terms of choosing Lyft over other rideshare services when I travel by plane: at select airports (for now), you will be able to pre-order your Lyft as soon as your plane lands, which should remove the mental guesswork in trying to time out when you request a ride. Furthermore, they are launching a Google Calendar integration to be able to let you know when to order your Lyft to go to the airport — automatically determining the proper terminal and drive time so that you don’t have to worry about them. If this works as it was explained at a media event today, I think it could be awesome.

a screenshot of a mobile application

Pre-order your Lyft ride as soon as your plane touches down

a man standing in front of a screen

David Risher, the new CEO of Lyft, spoke at a media event that I attended this morning in New York and he touched on some of the stresses that accompany airport travel. Regular readers of this blog probably eliminate many of those regular stresses by having a credit card that reimburses CLEAR or TSA PreCheck and a lounge membership that makes the airport experience more comfortable (indeed they had the general manager of Chase Sapphire Lounges on hand to discuss that somewhat as well).

This new ability to pre-order your ride when your plane touches down sounds like it could make for a much more seamless airport arrival experience. The way this new functionality was described was that it would make it possible to pre-order your Lyft the moment your plane touches down. You will only need to answer whether or not you need to collect checked luggage and Lyft will track your progress through the terminal in the background and automatically order your car so that it should be arriving at the pick-up point at the same time you do.

That sounds awesome to me as there has always been a bit of a stressful element in wondering when to order a ride so that we’re not waiting too long for a pickup but also aren’t waiting forever for a pickup. It sounds like Lyft is going to cover the mental math so you don’t have to.

Will it cost more to pre-order your Lyft on arrival?

We asked whether pre-ordering would affect pricing and how. Lyft told us that there is no additional cost to preordering. This is how pricing works:

  • When you preorder a ride you lock in your price. What you pay will not be impacted by any price fluctuation that occurs between when you requested your ride and when you are picked up by the driver. Your price won’t change, even if you need more time getting to the pickup spot.
  • If your driver cancels the ride, you will automatically be matched with a new driver and will not lose the locked-in preorder pricing.

This seems like a win-win to me: you’ll essentially jump the queue of people who wait until they get to the pick up area to order and not get hit with surge pricing that comes with a rush of customers. I guess this can cut the other way also in that you could pre-order at what turns out to be a higher price, but I know that in my experience with rideshare on arrival I have often run into a price increase between the time we land and the time I get to the curb, so I’ll be happy to lock it in without having to worry about how long it will take me to get to the pick up point.

At which airports can you use the Lyft pre-order service?

Starting today (5/11/23), this service is available at Chicago O’Hare (ORD), Chicago Midway (MDW), and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). At the end of May 2023, the service will be launching at Austin, Seattle, and New York JFK.

I imagine that this will prove to be popular and I hope to see it expand from there. We are told that the hope is for this to eventually scale to most airports where Lyft operates. Hopefully we’ll see that scale quickly.

Google Calendar integration

a screen shot of a phone

A second useful innovation announced today is that Lyft will now has a Google Calendar integration feature available for all users of the Android app. The Lyft app will find your flight reservations and automatically calculate when you should order a Lyft to the airport. It will even automatically determine the correct terminal, which is something I never think about until the driver asks me (and I inevitably don’t know).

The CEO explained this in a way that was very relatable: let’s say you have a flight at 2pm tomorrow. At 7am, you’re going to be thinking, “What time do I need to leave for the airport?”. The ability to let the app determine that “outsources some of the stress” as he put it.

Obviously some will be uncomfortable with integrating their calendar from a privacy standpoint, but it is hard to argue with the convenience of that. I wonder whether it will monitor traffic patterns and be able to alert you if you need to leave earlier than initially planned, but overall I think this is a smart innovation. Privacy concerns aside, I have come to really enjoy the convenience of travel apps figuring out what I need before I need it. Case in point: as I entered Penn Station to catch my train back upstate this afternoon, the Amtrak app popped up with a notification telling me that my train was boarding and which track number I needed. I didn’t have to look for a monitor and find my train — I just went to track #5 and there it was.

Paravel Aviator Carry-on Plus give-away

a group of luggage on wheels

In partnership with Paravel, which is a company that makes luggage with an eye toward sustainability, Lyft offered a free Paravel Aviator Plus carry-on bag to each attendee of this morning’s media event. I am not keeping this bag. We are going to give it away to a reader. Stay tuned for details on how to win what looks like a nice piece of carry-on luggage.

The description on Paravel’s website says:

Meet the world’s first carbon-neutral carry-on, perfectly sized for long weekend trips. The Aviator Carry-On Plus is crafted of sustainably-sourced materials including recycled polycarbonate, recycled aluminum, and recycled vegan leather. As a first in the industry, we offset all carbon emissions that are generated by creating and shipping the Aviator Carry-On to you—then, we offset the estimated emissions of its first trip with you.

The bags certainly looked nice and they had it in Frequent Miler Green Safari Green, so I figured this would be perfect for a Frequent Miler giveaway. Like I said, stay tuned for details on how we’ll give this away (I don’t actually have it yet, so it won’t be an immediate announcement, but I wanted to disclose to readers that this was offered and that we will be passing it on to a reader).

Bottom line

Overall, I see this as a great innovation from Lyft. At the media event this morning, which was mostly attended by representatives of more traditional media companies, a question was posed to attendees about how many people enjoy the travel experience itself. Predictably, it was the few of us with a miles-and-points background whose hands went up (because when you play our game, the entire airport experience can be more fun than stressful). But without a doubt, two pieces of stress remain in my mind, particularly when I travel with my family: when do we order a ride on arrival and when do we need to leave our destination to get to the airport for our return? “Outsourcing” that stress (as Lyft put it) sounds really nice to me.

Unfortunately, the problem for Lyft is that they still aren’t in enough locations to completely replace my Uber habit. Lyft is limited to the US and Canada, which means that I have to have Uber on my phone for all those times when I travel abroad (I recognize that Uber still isn’t everywhere I want to go, but at ~70+ countries it has much greater reach). And until these services expand well beyond the initial set of airports, the airport pre-order and pick up services won’t yet change my habit.

The crazy thing is that I have plenty of other reasons to prefer Lyft, including 10x on the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the ability to stack Bilt Rewards points on every ride. At 12x in rewards total between the two, I want to get in the habit of using Lyft, I’m just in such a habit of using Uber and habits are hard to break. These new innovations could go a long way in changing my habits — once they expand to at least most US airports. I’d love to see this sort of thing even more broadly available for international travelers, but for now I’m excited to see that Lyft is innovating to make rideshare a little bit more convenient in a way I hadn’t anticipated.

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