Rising prices and demand for rental cars are driving travelers toward other ways of finding vehicles to use during their trips.
Enter car-sharing platforms — cheaper car rentals booked directly through people in the nearby area.
Although such platforms may benefit passengers, some airports are trying to reverse this growing trend.
The Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport sued one such company — California-based Turo — and six people using the platform in October 2021 in the 352nd District of Tarrant County. The airport is seeking a permanent injunction against the company, trying to force it to cease all activity on airport property. A trial for the case is set for the week of April 24, 2023, according to court documents.
The airport’s board of directors also approved a resolution Aug. 4, requesting a change to the airport’s code of rules and regulations to allow illegally parked cars — such as the vehicles booked through the car-sharing platforms and left at terminals for passengers — to be towed.
The previous code allowed the airport to tow any vehicle considered abandoned or parked in violation of the code if it represents an operational hazard. This amendment removed the latter part of that code.
The airport’s media team declined the Fort Worth Report’s request for an interview but offered some details via email.
In the email statement, the airport said that the amended code is “part of an enforcement effort by DFW to prevent the illegal use of parking facilities for rental car deliveries and the evasion of both airport fees and state and local rental car taxes.”
Rental cars brought in about $33 million to the airport in 2022, placing third behind parking and concessions, according to the airport’s August financial report. Parking racked up $145 million in 2022 and concessions brought in $95 million.
Airport staff informed the board of directors that these rental cars are identified through undercover transactions.
Staff told the board that this action would not target mom-and-pops renting out one car but rather individuals with large fleets totaling 30 or more vehicles.
The airport code change will be presented to Fort Worth City Council on Sept. 20, with a vote scheduled for Sept. 27. Dallas City Council will also have to approve the amendment.
The Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is governed by a semi-autonomous board of 12 directors. The board is made up of members from the owner cities – Dallas and Fort Worth – as well as one rotation representative from the adjacent cities of Grapevine, Irving, Euless and Coppell.
Turo argues it is not a rental car company and therefore not subject to the same regulations as a traditional company.
“DFW’s attempt to lump the peer-to-peer car sharing community in the same bucket as multibillion-dollar rental car companies and to try to impose fees that are not suited to the industry, which does not involve any on-premises lots or infrastructure, is improper,” Turo’s email statement read.
The DFW conflict is part of a national debate over whether companies like Turo are required to obtain permits to operate on airport property. Several lawsuits have been filed against Turo in different states, with California among the latest jurisdictions to rule in favor of Turo.
What is Turo?
Turo is a web-based platform that allows people to enter a location and date and select a vehicle to use from local hosts. Once booked, users can pick up the car from a specific location – similar to a short-term home rental service but for cars.
The California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District ruled on June 28 that Turo is not a “rental car company” and therefore was exempt from the same requirements as corporate rental companies.
Fair airport access cultivates consumer choice and puts tourism dollars back into residents’ pockets, Turo told the Report in an email.
“Peer-to-peer car sharing allows local residents in Fort Worth to make money from their underutilized vehicles while simultaneously providing mobility options for both visitors and Texans alike,” the statement read.
Turo also declined to further comment on the issue because of ongoing litigation.
Because of the increasing number of airports fighting back against such car-sharing platforms, companies like Turo now have a frequently asked questions page on their website warning hosts of the risks of renting cars on airport property. This includes the risk of possible litigation.
DFW claims in the lawsuit that it has requested other car-sharing companies to follow airport regulations and obtain the necessary permits, but that Turo is the only one refusing to comply.
According to the airport, DFW is legally obligated to maintain a level playing field among all types of car rental competitors, even those who do not acknowledge that they are in the rental car business. That includes a bond covenant requiring that all rental car deliveries be made at the consolidated rental car facility.
“DFW offered Turo a permit that would have allowed them to facilitate car rentals at the same locations, and with the same fees and taxes, as all other car rental competitors. They refused, yet they continue to operate illegally at the airport,” according to the airport.
But, Turo told the Report the company has dozens of airport permits across the country that distinguish peer-to-peer car-sharing residents from rental car conglomerates.
For many Turo hosts, airport drop-offs are common. Fort Worth resident Amir Benjudah, 22, began using Turo in 2021 to rent his personal vehicle. During the first three to four months, airport requests were high on his list.
Within a year, what started as a side job for Benjudah quickly grew. Today, he has a fleet of four cars.
“Turo has definitely been a game-changer for me. I know it has done so for a lot of other people,” Benjudah said. “I’ve seen people take it very, very far. I know people who were making six figures, who have grossed seven figures.”
Benjudah has now switched to remote pick-ups, where guests pick up the vehicle from a host’s designated pickup location. But Benjudah knows many people who still deliver to airports and are being affected by DFW’s decision.
“It’s become this whole huge hassle and (those hosts) are now in litigation,” he said. “I don’t quite think it’s fair, just because I don’t think (Turo) should be looked at the same as Enterprise or Hertz, just because it’s not the same.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Sept. 12 to add Coppell as one of the cities with a rotating member seat on the DFW Airport Board. Bill Meadows, who sits on the DFW Airport’s Board of Directors, is also a member of the Fort Worth Report’s Board of Directors.
At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.