ORLANDO, Fla. – The government that runs Orlando International Airport raised taxes on ground-transportation companies, a move that will force travelers to pay more for everything from taxis to off-site parking.
The board of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority voted to increase the charges by as much as 25%. The airport board's members include Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, though Dyer was absent Wednesday and did not vote.
The decision comes as OIA braces for a slump in overall revenues, as passenger traffic is depressed by airline schedule cuts and the slumping national economy.
Board members spent almost no time debating the issue, despite warnings from several off-site parking-lot operators that the changes could devastate their businesses. "They passed that thing in, what, two seconds?" said Doug Yuen, general manager of Park to Fly Inc.
The move sparked particular outrage among private parking lots whose owners say they will be hammered in several ways.
Beginning Nov. 1, for instance, the airport will force the lots to hand over 10% of their total receipts, up from 8% now – which OIA staffers said will add 16 cents a day, or $1.12 per week, to the cost of parking.
Further, the lots will have to pay more each time their shuttles pick up travelers at the terminal — with the charge ultimately rising from 65 cents to 75 cents per trip for some and from $1.90 to $2.15 per trip for others. Shuttles that spend more than 10 or 15 minutes waiting to pick up passengers will face even steeper increases.
Perhaps most irritating of all, lot managers said, is that the airport will begin forcing many of the private-lot shuttles to begin dropping off their departing customers on the first level of the main terminal — instead of on the third level, where airline check-in counters are situated.
The change will require many lot customers, who are often traveling with luggage and children in tow, to take elevators up to the third level.
At the same time, shuttles from the airport's own satellite lots will be allowed to continue dropping travelers off on the third level.
Blair Van Wagoner, president of Payless Car Rental and Payless Parking, accused the airport of trying to steer travelers away from the private parking lots and into its own lots, where OIA currently charges slightly higher prices.
"Obviously, they view us as competition," Van Wagoner said.
Airport officials said they wanted to ease congestion in the third-level traffic lanes, where most people drop off traveling family members. They also said they had tried to accommodate the off-site lots by agreeing to allow the smallest category of shuttles — which make up about half of all private-lot shuttles — to continue dropping off customers on the third level.
That was of little consolation to the lots that rely on medium-sized shuttles. Managers estimated it would cost between $250,000 and $500,000 to shift to the smaller vehicles.
"And that's assuming we can find the funding," Van Wagoner said.
Other changes adopted Wednesday included raising the amount taxis must pay the airport from $2.70 per trip to $3.
The move comes just two months after the airport board voted to impose a $2.50-per-day tax on cars rented at OIA.
The airport intends to use the tax, which will raise the cost of car rentals by as much as $12.50, to finance construction upgrades to its rental-car operations.
Source: Orlando Sentinel