DFW Airport Sues To Protect Avis, Hertz And National From Competing Against Car Sharing Platforms

Car owners renting out their vehicles on Turo and GetAround are facing problems at certain airports. Dallas – Fort Worth filed a lawsuit against Turo in the fall. But Turo is just the platform that connects car owners and renters and takes a fee. Now the airport is going after the people doing the actual transactions by “towing cars on the spot in parking lots.”

The airport complains that individuals renting out their cars aren’t licensed by the airport, “don’t pay airport fees, they don’t collect state rental car taxes or local rental car taxes and remit them to the state.” Rental cars, of course, are a huge revenue driver for the airport (at DFW they generate over $33 million a year, that’s far less than parking but it isn’t nothing).

  • Of course since Turo isn’t doing the same thing as a rental car agency – they are connecting a car owner and someone who wants to rent the car, not owning and storing and renting their own vehicle, the insistence that they do not have car rental agency licensing seems inapposite. Indeed in Texas the law considers peer-to-peer rentals distinct from car rental agencies.

  • The better approach would be to say, what are the actual legitimate concerns with the business? And address those. Instead, DFW airport runs sting “undercover rental operations” to ferret out car owners.

As with Uber a decade ago, car-sharing is facing significant entrenched interests. And those interests cloak themselves in local NIMBY concerns. For instance in Seattle Turo is “clogging crowded urban neighborhoods where parking is already limited” and in Hawaii legislators are considering a ban on the practice because of overtourism (one wonders, if tourists only visit Hawaii when they can rent a car from a local as opposed to a big agency, how the state became so popular in the years before the technology existed).

Airports are protecting big rental car companies, because those rental car companies ‘kick up’ to the airport. Individuals renting cars to arriving passengers don’t pay airports a vig.

Airports build rental car centers which rental chains pay to use. Of course those rental centers are suboptimal for passengers, who frequently have to wait for a bus, schlepp their luggage onto the bus and maybe stop at multiple terminals on the way. People renting their cars out using the Turo platform don’t warehouse those cars on the airport property.

It’s public property, so anyone should be able to enter. But airports can get crowded. An airport has a legitimate interest in keeping traffic on property moving. If they need to manage congestion it’s reasonable to dictate where certain activities can take place. It’s reasonable to recoup costs of providing those facilities. And it’s reasonable to throttle those activities until they have a better solution to manage traffic (e.g. with fees even).

But it’s not reasonable to turn the airport authority, in almost all cases in the U.S. a government body, as a protectionist took for rental car agencies (the way that Taxi and Limousine Commissions have often been captured by the taxi industry and used to protect taxi owners from rideshare).

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