Executive Director , Airport Ground Transportation Association
Dr. Ray Mundy has been the executive director of the Airport Ground transportation Association for 27 years. The AGTA is unique in that it has members from the per-capita part of the ground transportation industry (taxis, limousines, vans, shuttles and buses) and courtesy operators such as parking and rental car shuttles as well as the airports themselves. Mundy says that with the vendor members the AGTA is able to bring both sides of an issue to the table at once and have very frank discussions of what is to be done. According to Mundy, rubber-tired transportation solutions provide anywhere from 10 to 40 percent of the ground transportation services at North American airports and pay a considerable percent of revenue to do so. The AGTA is currently housed at the University of Missouri - St. Louis where Mundy is also the Director of the Center for Transportation Studies.
How is the relationship between ground transportation companies and airports after Sept. 11?
“The relationship is somewhat strained due to the lack of economic activity. Some airports have worked with their concession ground transportation operators to either stretch out minimum guarantees or in rare cases defer them for a period. However, most have not. To be balanced the airports themselves have been hard hit with new security costs and considerable loss of revenue from parking and car rentals. Concession revenues are down and some airports such as those in heavy business/tourism areas have let ground transportation personnel go through early retirements or attrition. As business has returned these relationships are getting back to normal.”
How have the increased security measures at airports affected the policies for ground transportation?
“Most definitely! Ground transportation firms can no longer leave their vehicles at the curb and greet their customers inside or carry their bags further than the curb - unattended vehicles will be towed and ticketed in a heartbeat. Staging of taxis at the curb - a needed activity during peak times - is no longer possible and thus passengers wait longer for demand responsive vehicles. Limos that used to park at the curb or just inside the parking garage can no longer do so and hence found it difficult to meet their customers. Shuttle vehicles can no longer wait for prearranged customers but must circle the airport instead increasing cost and decreasing customer service levels. Airport officials don’t really like these new rules anymore than the operators, but for the time being, everyone is straining to comply. A few operators, and I stress a few, have actually been helped by certain airports such as LAX and others that made it very difficult for private cars to get anywhere near the curb. Thus ground transportation alternatives were considered. Some operators had new customers on their vehicles that they hoped to keep for the long haul.”
Are airports working better with ground transportation companies in regards to the increased security issues? If so, how?
“Most airports and their ground transportation firms have worked very cooperatively. Both airports and their ground transportation partners have vowed to hang on and hope traffic rebuilds as we move further and further from 9-11. A good portion of our upcoming conference will deal with safety and security measures and how we move forward. There are two major sessions that deal with new technology that can identify both vehicle and driver as having been prescreened and cleared to be at the airport curb. Most airports are having more frequent meetings with their ground transportation Providers to better explain the somewhat shifting rules and how they are going to be enforced. There has been less grumbling about security rules as time as gone by and everyone has gotten used to the new procedures. One must remember that for the most part this is a return to the conditions of Desert Storm, which most of our operators have lived through once before.”
What do you see in store for the airport ground transportation business in the coming year?
“Hopefully we’ll see a return to previous levels of activity and prosperity. Most of our operators were too large to qualify for grants or loans from SBA as a result of 9-11 so 2001 was written off - no chance of a profitable year. Most have peeled back costs to the bone in order to survive and hope Customer service will no suffer as a result. Small ground transportation providers may weather the storm better than our larger operators. Some of the “rollups” we have seen in the ground transportation industry are experiencing serious cash flows and of course banks are always willing to make loans when you don't need the transition funds but loath to do so when you really need the cash.”