Ride-share giant Uber has been facing harsh criticism recently after customers accused the company of trying to profit from US President Trump’s Immigration Ban. However, the backlash spelled good news for its major competitor, Lyft, whose app was downloaded more times than Uber by US users on iOS on January 29 for the first time ever.
Lyft’s success may not be a direct result of Uber’s conduct, but the backlash against them did have a negative impact on their own download rates.
On January 27 President Trump signed an executive order that indefinitely suspends the admission of Syrian refugees and limits the flow of other refugees into the United States. Titled "Protection Of The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States," the executive order sparked chaos in airports across the world as travellers were left in visa limbo.
There was global outrage from the public as well, with hundreds of people flooding to US airports to protest the Immigration. On January 28, The New York City Taxi Workers Alliance called for a temporary halt to rides heading to John F. Kennedy airport in a show of support for the protestors. They chose not to profit from the increase in demand for transport to and from airports.
The taxi strike was a gesture of support for the protestors, but also a protest in itself against Trump’s Immigration Ban.
“We cannot be silent. We go to work to welcome people to a land that once welcomed us,” the taxi union had written on Twitter.
Ride share service Uber did not follow suit and continued to transport the hundreds of people travelling to the airport to protest the Immigration Ban. They also announced they would temporarily suspend surge pricing, in recognition that demand would be unusually high.
Many people were angered that Uber didn’t halt their service in a similar gesture of support at the Taxi Workers Alliance. Some even accused the company of suspending surge pricing as a marketing ploy. The public lashed out and vowed to delete their Uber app altogether, resulting in the hashtag #DeleteUber trending on Twitter worldwide.
Just 48 hours later, Lyft app downloads doubled its average from the last two weeks. In the coming days it continued to trend in Apple’s App Store and climbed the top free apps chart to No. 4, surpassing Uber, which was in 13th place.
Sam Mancuso, 19, from Arizona, often uses Uber to travel to and from college each day. But the recent controversy surrounding Uber has prompted him to delete the app and switch to Lyft.
“Their conduct was absolutely unprofessional and I will be switching,” he says.
“I think a company needs to be neutral with politics; the owner can have his or her own beliefs but should not have that in their company. Taking advantage of the horrible situation that is happening is disgusting and it definitely has made me change my mind about Uber.”
According to the New York Times, more than 200,000 people ended up deleting their Uber accounts over the weekend. However, that’s a small loss when compared to the company’s 40M active users.
“SimilarWeb's report claims there was a spike in the total downloads metric for Lyft on Jan. 28 (the start of the movement), suggesting #DeleteUber may have had some impact. Still, the firm determined the influx was not significant enough to influence the general trend.
In addition, their data shows there was no significant change to install percentages (which the firm defines as current installations of the app as a percentage of all Android devices in the U.S.) on Android devices for Uber or Lyft from Jan. 4 to Jan. 31.”
While there was a recorded increase in downloads on iOS devices, web and Android activity did not experience the same jump.