Most interested in JFK and LGA, but I'd love to know in general. Very curious.
How long do Uber/Taxi drivers have to wait at airport waiting lots and their queues?
The Guru Take
Airport Driver Queues: Anywhere from 5 minutes to 3 hours. Depends on when, size of airport, supply, etc.
This is one of those things that drivers are intimate with but passengers have no idea about. People get picked up and have no idea that the driver has been waiting all this time to finally pick you up! You should smile and give your driver a big hug.
The wait time can vary greatly, say anywhere from 4 mintes to a few hours. If I were to give a "typical" figure, the wait is usually about 15 to 30 minutes when things are working smoothly. That seems like a lot of time to some, but trips orignating from airports are usually longer and can have good payouts. Drivers typically favor airport rides, of course, when the wait time isn't too long.
Unfortunately, the wait time can reach multiple hours. New York airports are notorious for long lines that can be 2+ hours.
The law of supply-and-demand come into effect when it comes to queue size and wait time. When there are lots of passengers getting off flights, that would shrink the queue quickly. When there are fewer drivers on the road and targeting airports, the queue would be shorter. For drivers, it's all about gauging the situation carefully.
The basics: For those readers who are not familiar with the concept, taxi and rideshare drivers must go into a waiting lot when arriving at an airport for pickup. It's generally a FIFO (first-in first-out) format, and only when every other driver has picked up a passenger, your turn arrives. There's generally a centralized location away from the actual pickup areas where the drivers wait.
The modern app-based services like Uber and Lyft rideshares have implemented a way to display the length of the queue (i.e. number of cars ahead) on the app in real-time. Uber even used to display the number of minutes (though it was known to be greatly inaccurate). At some airports, there is no longer a physical waiting lot, as drivers can freely drive around to wait for their turn.
This is what the screen looks like: