Even though it operates under a legal cloud in the country, Über has been a popular ride sharing alternative for both Colombians and foreign visitors to the Andean country. Über drivers risk sanctions up to confiscation of their vehicle if caught taking riders to or from popular airports in Colombia, The ride hailing firm charges a surcharge for airport trips, in the case of Medellín, $26,700 Colombian Pesos.
The ride hailing service says it is to cover expenses such as the fare between Medellín and the airport, though it continues to charge residents local to Medellín’s airport, actually located in Rionegro. So far, no problem when disclosed in advance, but Finance Colombia readers were recently shown examples of Über charging airport surcharges for trips that were explicitly not to or from local airports. In Bogotá for example the airport is located in an industrial area with many offices and warehouses. Cartagena’s international Airport is in an urban area, and Medellín’s José Maria Córdova airport is in a suburban area surrounded by free zones, offices, and a major hospital.
To test these complaints, Finance Colombia booked an Über trip to and from Rionegro, Colombia to the San Vicente Hospital complex, a large healthcare facility a few minutes from—but not connected to—the nearby international airport. Sure enough, there were airport surcharges, and no way to remove them.
Über customer service was contacted, and their response was “too bad!” Translated from Spanish, they said:
“We understand the situation that you indicate to us and that it seems to you that this airport charge should not have been collected. We tell you that we have reviewed the details of your lease and we note that this charge was made correctly. Likewise, for MDE leases, a surcharge of COP 26,700 is added to your suggested price, in the same way the suggested price at the time of requesting your lease was respected, so this time we cannot make any adjustments to your lease. We appreciate your understanding.”
Finance Colombia reached out to Über for clarification on this policy, and received the following statement from the firm on their Colombia policy:
“The charge for the Rionegro airport, which serves the city of Medellín, is designed to compensate lessors that have to drive long distances, pay tolls, and very commonly, return to the city without another user. For this reason, it covers both the airport and its surrounding area. Due to an individual case we received, we have corrected the geo coverage so that it does not include the street where the Hospital San Vicente in Rionegro is located. We are constantly learning from the experience of users, so that we can build a better platform together.”
The takeaway from this seems to be: Always check carefully the presented fares before accepting a trip. If something doesn’t seem right, or if there are surcharges that don’t coincide with the trip starting point or destination, the traveler is wise to understand available alternatives.
Know your options
Other alternatives to Über are available in Colombia. InDriver is a popular app with Colombians, with the advantage of allowing both the rider and driver to “name your price.” A rider can offer a price that drivers can accept, bid on, or submit a counter offer. Cabify is another app that is taxi-friendly. On both alternatives, taxi drivers often offer their services as drivers. In all cases, riders and drivers should always take security and safety precautions like texting the car and driver (or rider) details to a trusted friend, perhaps with photos, before using any service-including taxis and livery vehicles. Always confirm the identity of your driver or rider before beginning transportation.