Cleveland Airport Prevents Curbside Pick Up, Drop Off

Lexi Tucker
Posted on January 30, 2019

The Ground Transportation Lot at CLE. (Photo: Nina Parson)

The Ground Transportation Lot at CLE. (Photo: Nina Parson)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A new law that took effect Jan. 1 is preventing operators from picking up and dropping off their clients curbside at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE), reported operator Steve Qua, president of Company Car & Limousine.

Luxury transportation companies and TNCs must now park in a designated lot and have their arriving passengers walk to the “Ground Transportation Center” and hike even further from the new livery drop-off station on the baggage claim level.

Companies used to be able to stage their vehicles in a limo lot (now called the Ground Transportation Center) and have clients call in to let them know where they wanted to meet their car curbside. However, when the airport lost its Continental Airlines hub status after the airline was absorbed by United, airport revenue had to be recouped.

Airport Director Robert Kennedy was tasked with developing a plan to make the airport self-sustaining by collecting money from professional users.

After going to the city council and proposing a solution via a looping fee, the airport found this could add $1.8 million in additional revenue, and believed it would allow them to lower landing fees at the airport. The law was passed, but the legislation doesn’t speak to how the fee would be determined.

At the time, there wasn’t a way to count the number of chauffeured operators using the airport unless they came into the Ground Transportation Center, so an edict was passed that required passengers to meet their transportation provider in the open lot, with no way to protect them from the weather. The only way in and out of the lot is to swipe a key card, which costs $4 per vehicle per swipe.

Most airports use a transponder system that passively charges vehicles with every loop they make. “We wrongly assumed they were going to install something similar or a license plate recognition system to count vehicles as they come through. To me, what they ended up doing was amazingly unwise because it inconveniences their customers so much,” Qua said.

A map of the airport with the Ground Transportation Lot marked. For a larger version, go to https://www.clevelandairport.com/parking-transportation/parking-transit-map (Photo: CLE)

A map of the airport with the Ground Transportation Lot marked. For a larger version, go to https://www.clevelandairport.com/parking-transportation/parking-transit-map (Photo: CLE)

Airport representatives asked Qua if his software would provide them with the data to keep track of how often their cars make rounds. While it can, many companies don’t use software that robust. “Most software programs aren’t capable of doing it electronically and operators would have to send the airport data on trips after the fact. They likely wouldn’t trust us to do that.”

All luxury transportation companies must now meet their passengers at baggage claim and walk them over to the designated lot, or passengers must find their own way there for airport pickups. Another drop off place on the baggage claim level sits far from most ticket counters. Because of this change, “I’m now spending 10 to 15 hours a week dealing with airport trip complaints,” he said.

“For example, if you are traveling outbound on American and are dropped off on the baggage level, you have to negotiate at least 200 yards and an escalator to get to the place where you will check your bags.”

This just isn’t feasible for older customers or those with ample amounts of luggage. “Although they have done a reasonably good job of making sure there are baggage and wheelchair assistance people at the door where you drop passengers off, it’s not something the airport should put our customers through.”

If operators do not comply and a customer is caught getting into or exiting a car at the curb, the chauffeur or driver can be charged with a misdemeanor, and could possibly face a fine of up to $250, incarceration up to 30 days, and have their vehicle impounded. Uber and Lyft are not exempt from the same rules; however, their vehicles aren’t as identifiable as those belonging to a chauffeured transportation company. TNC use of the public roadway is almost impossible to police, Qua said.

The airport claims it made this change to collect money and reduce pressure on the roadways. “While airport traffic is now back to where it was in the heyday of Continental, there is only additional pressure on the roadways during peak times on specific days,” Qua said.

The mayor is the only figure who can change the law, but as of a meeting between his office and the airport director the week of Jan. 14, nothing has been decided. “We have continued to tell our customers to complain to the newspaper and mayor’s office,” Qua said. “The mayor is the only one who can put a stop to this silliness. There’s only one reason anyone would make a customer service decision this bad. They don’t have the budget to do it right.”

LCT reached out to officials at CLE, and will update the story with their response.

Related Topics: airport rules, airports, Ohio operators, regulatory enforcement

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
Comments ( 5 )
  • Tim

     | about 2 years ago

    Cleveland city council just rescinded the 2-9-19 citing lots of inconvenience .

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