It all started when US President Donald Trump decided to enact a 90-day ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations. Travelers from those origins were detained at ports of entry and interrogated. Protests soon gathered around them.
One such place was at John F. Kennedy Airport at the ends of the borough of Queens in New York as Terminal 4 and others were flooded with families and friends waiting upon relatives in passport purgatory, the lawyers fighting for the rights of the affected people and hundreds of lay people against fighting against the order.
Late Saturday, the drivers of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, who are largely Muslim, immigrants, or both, acted in support of the protests by either staying clear of JFK altogether or parking at the airport and joining the protests. AirTrain service connecting the greater MTA system with the terminals was ordered halted, only to then be restored an hour later. Ride-hailing service Uber decided to remove surge pricing for the bloated area to take advantage of the situation.
Social media brought into attention that CEO Travis Kalanick was serving on Trump’s advisory board for business and that Kalanick would “partner with anyone in the world” for his own profit. Competitor Lyft made an announcement later that night of its intent to donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union over the next four years.
#DeleteUber started trending on Twitter and is currently mounting momentum towards Lyft. As of this post, while the Google Play Store still shows Uber with a firm lead on the top free app download chart at number 15 versus Lyft’s 43rd spot, the Apple App Store puts Lyft at fourth and Uber at 13th.
This was in spite of Uber’s early blog post to support drivers with compensation to drivers affected under the immigration order and a way-too-late statement from Kalanick on the ban the Monday after the protests began. The company will soon make $3 million available for legal support to Uber’s drivers.
Not enough. Perception, knee-jerk moves and then the lack of decisive, corrective action from corporate contributed to Uber’s fall from protesters’ grace. Combine that with a raft of other general complaint about Uber that have snowballed over time and it made for a winning weekend for Lyft.
Where the state of play lies from here is up to customers — and, perhaps, market leader Uber — to decide.