Lyft has made airport pickups quicker and less confusing by taking a page from the taxi playbook

Travelers wait for ride share vehicles at O'Hare Airport on April 10, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois

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Travelers wait for ride share vehicles at O’Hare Airport on April 10, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois
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Scott Olson/Getty Images

  • Lyft‘s system for speeding up airport pickups is expanding to two new cities across the United States.
  • Instead of finding a specific driver, passengers will get a PIN in the app, and then join a line with other passengers.
  • Once they reach the front of the line, they’ll give the PIN to the next available driver, which will pair the two and allow the ride to begin.
  • A Lyft executive told Business Insider it’s improved average wait times by 2-3 minutes already.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Airports curbs can be a madhouse.

And while Uber is sending some passengers directly to the terminal in helicopters, Lyft has found a way to ease a bit of the curbside confusion by taking a nod from the systems traditional taxis have long used at airports.

The ride-hailing company’s “fast match” program is expanding to six new cities, it said Thursday, as drama between local governments and the industry heats up at some airports. Here’s how it works:

Lyft fast match airport pickup

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Lyft

When requesting a ride, you’ll get a four-digit PIN on the Lyft app and then join a fast match line outside the airport. Riders and drivers will then be paired on a first-come, first-served basis, rather than having individual riders and drivers try to connect in the crowded airport space. When the driver inputs the PIN into their phone, the two are matched and the ride can begin.

Bakari Brock, senior director Lyft for business, said the program has reduced wait times by up to three minutes in its first iterations in Chicago and Portland.

Asked directly about this comparison to traditional cab lines, which are able to facilitate massive amounts of pickups because no specific driver is assigned to any rider, Brock was hesitant to make the same connection.

“We’re not looking to necessarily replicate or duplicate a taxi-like experience,” he said, “but we are using methods that are efficient and get people in and out faster. As we continue to do this, we believe that we’ll more efficiently move folks in and out of highly congested areas.”

Once paired with a driver through the PIN system, everything else about a Lyft ride is the exact same as before, Brock said.

Read more: Lyft is finally giving some drivers one of their most requested features

It’s also a way for Lyft to work collaboratively with airports, an especially important tactic as many cities – like Los Angeles, Boston, and others – begin to move ride-hailing pickups away from the terminal curb to separate locations.

In many cases, these locations are much better suited to pickups, but do require a few minutes walk away from the terminal. Uber and Lyft, for their part, are on the offensive against these changes.

“We believe fast-match is most effective at the curb,” Bakari said. “We do understand that if there are certain operational flows where the volume of Lyft might be a challenge. That’s why we strongly advocate a line of thinking around airports that emphasized segmentation.”

A premium ride, like Lyft Lux, might have access to the curb, he said, while a normal Lyft or shared ride, would require a short walk. More on that to come, though.

“It’s important for folks to know that we’re still in the early days of fast match,” Bakari said. “and we’re continuing to iterate and build on the product, and are excited to see it continue to improve.”