Uber drivers gear up for profitable Thanksgiving holiday travel weekend

First travel season Uber is legal in Hillsborough
Posted at 7:42 PM, Nov 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-23 19:42:21-05

Hitting the road this Thanksgiving brings a whole new meaning for some Tampa Bay drivers. 

"It would be nice if I could make $200 today," Uber driver Jody Santiago said. 

Uber drivers are spending this holiday weekend chauffeuring customers to and from Tampa International Airport among other locations. 

This year marks the first busy holiday travel season Uber is considered legal in Hillsborough County. 

On the day before Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel days of the year, Uber drivers are learning that it's a buyers market.  

"When I first showed up to the airport this morning, it showed anywhere between 60 and 80 minutes, which is a long time to wait," Santiago said. 

TIA officials said 28,000 travelers will pass through the airport Wednesday. That is about 5,000 more than a typical Wednesday. 

Airport officials anticipate serving 552,000 passengers this Thanksgiving holiday season from Nov. 19 to Nov. 28.

Santiago counts on the extra cash to supplement her part-time job in merchandising. 

"You basically work when you have time to work," Santiago said. 

Matthew Stern went from being an Uber passenger  to being in the driver's seat after losing his job. 

"It was a quick way to make some extra money going into the holidays," Stern said. 

With the holiday season here, Stern is thankful for the money-making opportunity and stories along the way. 

"People jump in; It's an experience, " Stern said. "It's anywhere from 5 minutes to 25 minutes. You chit chat with them and you drop them off."

For those driving to their holiday destination, $2 per gallon gas prices are easing the pain of fueling up during the popular spending season. 

"That's huge, everything's expensive now as it is, so that definitely saves a little bit."

Travel experts say the best days to return home after Thanksgiving is early Friday morning or wait until Monday morning.