Taxis threaten to stop Sea-Tac Airport service over town cars

Jul 16, 2012

Claiming town cars are breaking the rules, Seattle taxi drivers are threatening to stop taking passengers to Sea-Tac Airport.

The drivers, who organized just last month with help from the Teamsters union, say town car operators are soliciting customers at the airport and committing other violations and they want the Port of Seattle to crack down.

“A lot of these guys are acting like they’re port of Seattle officials, they’re dressed up and calling, hey, welcome to Sea-Tac International Airport and inviting people to talk with them first. We’re not supposed to say anything,” said Paul Singh, a taxi driver.

The drivers say those aggressive moves by town car (limo) drivers mean taxi drivers are losing some of their best customers.

Representatives of the newly formed Western Washington Taxi Cab Operators Association delivered a petition with almost 400 signatures of cab drivers to the port this afternoon along with the threat to stop work.

“No rules that we know of are being broken. They’re applied fairly. We’ll take a look at their grievances and see how we can work with them,” said Peter McGraw, a spokesman for the Port of Seattle. "Currently most of the business are taxis – there are (per month) 65,000 on average taxi trips in and out of Sea-Tac International Airport, there are 3,500 town car trips. ... So we’re able to accommodate both of them.

Kate Denison is a dispatcher with STILA Limousine. Here's what she has to say about soliciting:

"It's been an ongoing thing between us – they say we solicit, but if you were to come out here and stand out here and watch as we work, you’d be seeing Yellow Cab solicit as well, you’ll see them flagging down, yelling taxi, because yelling taxi is a form of solicitation."

She says she doesn't solicit, but some other limo dispatchers and drivers may solicit sometimes.

In a press release announcing the potential action, the Teamsters and the activist group Working Washington, wrote:

“Recent actions by Port of Seattle management have made things even harder for these drivers — the Port is allowing other transportation providers to undercut taxi services, creating confusion for travelers and pushing drivers further into poverty. These actions by the Port are also in direct violation of the rules the Port itself has established to ensure reliable & efficient ground transportation choices.

“Taxi drivers have repeatedly appealed to the Port to follow their own rules and hold up their end of the bargain so that they can have a shot at a decent living for themselves and their families. Today, taxi cab operators and community leaders will call on Port leaders to enforce their own rules. Taxi drivers are also preparing for a possible work stoppage to protest the unfair conditions.”

The two groups claim that taxi drivers typically start their work day $1,000 in the hole since they have to lease their taxi, pay for insurance, gas and airport pick-up fees upfront.

Agreement between the Port of Seattle and STILA limousine:

Agreement between the Port of Seattle and the taxis services: