PHOENIX – Some passengers at Phoenix Sky Harbor
International Airport may have to pay more for a short taxi
ride and others would no longer be able to hire a curbside
limousine because of a long-standing feud between cabbies
and limousine drivers. Ongoing bickering between the two
groups is forcing the airport to overhaul its ground
transportation services in an effort to improve customer
service. Passengers who need to take a cab or a limousine
have complained that they feel harassed by drivers who both
barter and solicit them for business, despite rules that
forbid such behavior.
The recommendations, which still need to be approved, would
affect travelers in several ways:
• Meter rates won't change, but the minimum cost of a taxi
ride from the airport would be set at $15, the equivalent
of about a five-mile trip. Right now, there is no minimum.
• People would be able to use credit cards to pay cab
fares. Now, cabbies take only cash.
• Limousine service will be available only by reservation.
Currently, passengers can grab a limousine on the spot,
just like a cab, at all three terminals.
"The important thing for us is that we are able to ensure
the services that the customer wants, and that we provide a
good service," Assistant Aviation Director Carl Newman said
of the proposed changes. "There's just been ongoing
conflict between the cab drivers and chauffeurs, and a lot
of times the customer gets caught between the two."
The recommendations come after nearly six months of study
by an outside consultant. They will be discussed by the
Aviation Advisory Committee and then must be approved by
the Phoenix City Council.
The changes come on the heels of a new plan to raise
airport-parking fees. Rates are set to jump 25% to 60% by
the first of the year and could even double if people keep
using the lots at the rate they are now, officials said.
That means that rates could reach as much as $10 a day in
the economy service lots and $25 a day in the terminal
This latest proposal was meant to end a lengthy spat
between taxi and limousine drivers, but is already being
criticized by both groups. Limousine drivers fear that
taking away their "on-demand" service, in which a customer
can simply walk out to the terminal curb and request a
luxury vehicle, will bankrupt them. Taxi drivers say the
changes don't do enough to help them make a living wage.
Sky Harbor is one of the only major airports in the country
that has the on-demand service option.
"There are so many fights," said George Omari, a driver for
the Discount cab company. "It's a shame to see two drivers
fight in front of customers. It's not good for business."
Limousine drivers counter that a small group of cabbies is
the source of the trouble and that the new rules would take
away their sole income source as most are small-business
owners who serve only the airport. "We don't know what we
will do if they kick us out. All of my work is at the
airport," said Nick Peimani, the owner of Prince Limousine
Co., which operates three cars at Sky Harbor.
Jihad Khoury, owner of Affordable Limousine Service, said
his small company can't compete with the big limousine
services that operate on reservations. On-demand fares make
up 97% of his business, he said.
So far, passengers seem ambivalent to the proposed rules.
Many who take cabs on a regular basis say they rely on them
for transportation to their homes and are used to paying a
fare of $15 or more anyway, although they do seem to like
the idea of being able to use their credit cards. They also
say that they won't miss the on-demand limousine
service. "It seems to me that you could always make a
reservation if you wanted to take a limousine," Chandler
resident Joan Kelly said. "Overall, I really don't think
this is going to affect me very much."