"It wouldn't be any different than if we knew people here who could come pick us up," Grubb adds. "It leaves a bad taste in your mouth."
San Francisco has one of the highest pickup fees in the nation: $5 for taxi rides that originate there and $3.85 for rides provided by transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft. Asked why the airport needs to charge such fees, spokesman Doug Yakel replied that state and federal regulations allow them.
Airports across the country say the ground transportation fees are necessary so they can pay to maintain the many miles of roads on their properties. The fees also go, in some cases, to hire staff to direct traffic and to dispatch taxis. With the growth of app-based ride services like Uber and Lyft, airports have also constructed new waiting areas and parking lots.
Officials at most airports were reluctant to further explain why they charged the fees except that doing so helps keep airport costs down, which in turn makes it cheaper for airlines to serve the community.
At Washington's Reagan National Airport, taxis have to pay $3 to access the pickup line, while other services like Uber have to pay $4. Spokesman Rob Yingling says the airport has very limited space and needs to create waiting areas for the cars as well as pay dispatchers and do road maintenance.
However, San Francisco, Washington and most other airports don't charge private cars to use their roads to pick up family and friends. (There are exceptions — Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport charges at least $2 just to enter the airport grounds.)
And it's not just taxi rides that cost money.
You may decide to park your own car at a private parking lot a few blocks away from Los Angeles International Airport. There is a still a charge - passed on through the lot operator - for the shuttle ride to the airport. In L.A., that ranges from $2.57 to $3.85 for each loop around the airport, depending on the size of the shuttle bus. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport charges off-airport parking lots $10 per parking space, per year, to operate their shuttles.
Those renting cars aren't immune from the fees either.
For instance, Las Vegas's McCarran International Airport charges rental car companies a shuttle fee of $1 for every car rented.
Overall, the highest combined fees per originating passenger were in Las Vegas, the two Washington D.C. airports and Dallas-Fort Worth. (The AP analysis excludes connecting passengers because they don't have a need for ground transportation.)
Las Vegas's airport collected $17.4 million last year in such fees, which came out to 84 cents per originating passenger, the highest of the 50 largest U.S. airports. That pales compared with the $11.60 per enplaned passenger the airport collected in landing fees. But the $2 per taxi pickup fee does add up when the ride from the airport to most hotels is just 10 to 15 minutes.
Washington Dulles International was the next most expensive at 80 cents followed by National at 79 cents and Dallas at 67 cents.