By Neal Morton
San Antonio Express-News.
Ignoring the row of taxis unloading passengers at the San Antonio International Airport, Dale Blankenship on Wednesday slowed his Hyundai Elantra to scope out his main competition idling in an unassuming silver sedan.
The two drivers — both of whom work for ride-sharing service Uber — joined several others circling the airport or waiting in the cellphone lot. Their goal: to be the closest vehicle to visitors looking for a cheap ride from the airport.
Uber and its competitor, Lyft, connect private drivers, who have not been professionally trained or commercially licensed, with riders through smartphone applications.
“It’s very much like a chess game,” Blankenship said of the tactics he uses to secure the first “ping” for a ride.
The 59-year-old has staked a favorite spot in the airport’s temporary lot and, using a 12 1/2-minute timer, makes sure he exits before he’s charged. Blakenship also prints out the airport’s daily arrival list and modifies his schedule around the best times to capture business from other drivers.
“You have to really become a specialist in order to be successful,” Blankenship said. “Uber’s like mana from heaven for people who have an entrepreneurial spirit.”
Uber would not disclose an exact number but said “hundreds” of drivers have signed up with the service since its launch in San Antonio last March.
While many of those drivers seek to pad their bank accounts by offering a few rides after work, some have elected to make the service their primary or only job.
Several Lyft and Uber drivers reported making as much as $1,000 a week, and Blankenship said he sometimes earns between $1,500 and $2,000 when he pursues riders more aggressively.
He has been funneling the money he earns from Uber into 475degrees.com, a wine and food blog that he started after leaving the wine-distribution industry.