GOLA at Odds With Disney Over Airport Issues

Posted on September 21, 2005 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

ORLANDO, FLA. – Citing unfair business practice at the Orlando International Airport, former U.S. Attorney Larry Colleton has called on the airport's Chief Executive Bill Jennings to terminate a ground transportation contract with the Walt Disney Company. Writing on behalf of the Greater Orlando Livery Association (GOLA), Colleton called for an urgent meeting with the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority to halt an allegedly unfair business practice that gives Disney "exclusive and unprecedented access to travelers."

"The Colleton Law Firm, P.A., has been retained by (GOLA) to assist it with respect to what the Association believes to be unfair business practices by the Aviation Authority,” Colleton stated in a registered letter to the aviation authority's chief executive. “As you are aware, GOLA strongly believes that the Aviation Authority's contract with Walt Disney World that created the Disney Magical Express at the Orlando International Airport establishes an unfair business practice by giving the Disney Company exclusive and unprecedented access to travelers."

Outlining five separate issues, Colleton stated, "Members of GOLA have seen a significant reduction in their business since the implementation of this contract. The impact was immediate and there can be no doubt about the direct correlation between the implementation of this contract and the decline in business."

Colleton referred to Disney's access to the third level of the airport terminal where prearranged passengers are met as "a material breach of the terms and conditions of the contract by Walt Disney." Colleton also stated that Disney's access in, and directly behind, the carousel baggage claim are an area normally restricted to airport and airline baggage handlers, also delivered "an unfair advantage when compared with all other providers."

"There is great concern the subject contract will provide Disney with a monopoly. There will be less and less competition because more and more small businesses who make up GOLA will no longer exist,” he stated. “One must ask whether the Aviation Authority wants to be the cause of destroying viable small businesses as a direct result of this contract.”

Disney said its complimentary Magical Express program is available to all guests. Spokesman Jacob DiPietre said Disney has not violated the terms of its agreement, adding that the program has "created hundreds of new jobs and injected millions of dollars into our local economy."

The service provides Disney hotel guests with bus transportation to and from their hotel and the airport. It also allows them to check their baggage at their departing airport and receive it when they check into their hotel. On their return, they check their bags at the Disney hotel and retrieve them when they arrive at their home airport. The airlines participating in the service, which use specially marked baggage tags, include American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Song, United Airlines and Ted.

"It's one thing to compete," said Mike McKenzie, owner of Wheels to Wings Transportation and incoming president of GOLA. "We all compete. But there's no competing with free services."

McKenzie says the industry group is prepared to take the matter to court if the airport isn't willing to change its agreement with Disney. "It's costing us too much money not to," he said. "I don't want to see my year-round business become a September to May kind of thing."

A GOLA spokesman said the group has been unable to maintain a dialogue with airport authorities about the issue. McKenzie said the group last met with airport officials in July, and a planned August meeting that would have included Disney was cancelled and has not been rescheduled. About 200 companies that operate more than 600 vehicles registered and permitted at the Orlando International Airport are members of GOLA.

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