Operating through a crisis requires fresh thinking and new ways of serving our customers

Guest Author by Guest Author | Oct 2, 2020

Written by Rob Mitchell, Business Development | Global Airport Partnerships, UBER

Not so long ago, leaders across the travel industry were remarking on the prospects of what seemed to be an unrelenting upward trajectory of travel. Airports around the world were embarking on multi-billion dollar expansion projects to build new gates, expand terminal facilities, and improve roadway capacity.

Airlines were growing their fleets and adding routes that were previously thought unable to support nonstop service, and aircraft manufacturers had bulging order books measured in the thousands.

Simultaneously, leaders in the industry predicted all the ways in which travel through airports would become more seamless and tailored to each individual passenger’s needs. The deployment of biometrics, expansion of touchless technology, and enhancement of self-serve capabilities have been discussed for years. COVID-19 will no doubt accelerate the pace of these much-discussed innovations, while also auguring in new ones.

The new normal calls for new priorities

While growth will likely not be a priority for the travel industry for the short to medium term, now is the time to double down and prioritize initiatives that drive safety and enhance the customer experience through the lens of the “new normal”.

In the midst of the tumultuous last few months, Uber, like much of the aviation industry, has prioritized helping millions of consumers so that small and large business, airports, transit agencies, and governments can begin to recover by accelerating investment in key technologies that serve these groups.

With recovery coming much slower than some initially expected, the industry will need to focus on ways to communicate the extensive safety efforts and requirements being implemented and moving passengers quickly and efficiently from curb to security to plane and back. In that spirit, Uber prioritized creating an in-app safety checklist for riders and drivers alongside selfie technology to determine whether a driver is wearing a face covering before they are able to accept trips in the app and launched ExpressMatch, a dynamic, intelligent matching tool that strives to cut rider wait times to almost zero.

The examples below offer up ideas that airports and others throughout the travel ecosystem can tap into to enhance customer comfort and safety, meet sustainability goals, continue to provide equitable and efficient mass transportation services, and accelerate the adoption of contactless technology.

Industry partnerships show the way forward

As ACI World noted, the industry is stronger when it works together and partnerships will help to underpin the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, its impacts and effects.

For example, Marin County in California recently partnered with Uber to provide more reliable and more equitable transportation services for everyone. The Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) and Marin Transit are contracting with Uber in a software-as-a-service (SaaS) agreement to put the county’s public transit operations directly on the Uber app.

Full shot of a male driver loading luggage of his riders into car trunk

While its services will now be accessible through the Uber platform, Marin Transit will provide the rides but retains the ability to set the terms, prices and service zones, as well as ensure the rides are accessible for riders with physical or other limitations..

Another example is a multiyear agreement to create Uber Boat by Thames Clippers, enabling end-to-end planning and ticketing for journeys on the River Thames in London all within the Uber app.

The path to returning passenger confidence starts with partnership

Travellers are demanding safer and more hygienic trips – and the peace of mind that they know all the services getting them from point A to point B are stitched together thoughtfully. By working together, innovating and creating a more seamless journey for shared customers from home to the boarding gate and back is well within reach.

While COVID-19 might have upended even the best laid plans in 2020, there is optimism about what the future holds. This period of adversity will give rise to new innovations and creative ways of thinking. Airports and the broader travel ecosystem are responding with impressive alacrity: from launching new health and safety protocols, to deploying new ways of cleaning aircraft and airports with robots, to installing contactless security screening, the resilience of this industry is on display every day.

By effectively linking the digital and physical worlds, together we will become more resilient and responsive to the needs of customers, and emerge well-positioned for an even brighter future ahead.


Rob Mitchell is the global business development lead for airports at Uber Technologies.

He is responsible for Uber’s commercial partnership strategy with airports to drive improved experiences for customers, and revenue growth and operational excellence for airport partners.

Rob joined Uber in 2018 after almost a decade of experience in the aviation industry at JetBlue Airways Corporation where he worked in finance, strategy, government affairs, and airport affairs. Rob holds a Master of Business Administration from Northwestern University–Kellogg School of Management and a Bachelor’s degree in Government from Wesleyan University.


The article was provided by a third party and, as such, the views expressed therein and/or presented are their own and may not represent or reflect the views of ACI, its management, Board, or members. Readers should not act on the basis of any information contained in the blog without referring to applicable laws and regulations and/or without appropriate professional advice.

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