Phoenix Airport Intervening in Dispute Between Limousines and Taxis

LCT Staff
Posted on October 19, 2005

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 garages.

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."

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