Customer service is the issue and it's a contentious one with limousine drivers.
A protest was staged earlier today at the Legislative Building by some local limousine operators who disagree with the Winnipeg Airports Authority's plan to contract a single company to provide on-demand service at James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.
But four large limousine companies -- Winnipeg Limousine/Winnipeg Coach Service, Hollywood Limousine Service, London Limos and Emerald Limousine Service -- did not participate in the protest and say it is a good move by the WAA to contract a single company.
"In the past there have been some concerns that not all companies were operating equally in the matter of customer service and this lack of consistency and some negative feedback has pushed WAA in this direction," said Shawn Gliddon, the Winnipeg Limousine/Winnipeg Coach Service's director of operations. His company has 16 cars in its fleet. "There's a handful of the smaller operators that the situation is going to be perceived as negative by them."
Jag Kailey, who has two cars in his fleet with Rainbow Limousine, spoke during Friday's protest at the Legislature and said his company does about 50 per cent of its business through on-demand service at airport.
"We just want them (WAA) to be fair to everybody. They want just one company there," said Kailey. "They told us about that (customer complaints). They can't say all of the guys are like that. If you find somebody is not providing service you can kick them out. Why do you have to do that to all of the companies?"
Christine Payne, the WAA director of communications and public affairs, said a number of complaints that went through the Manitoba Taxicab Board indicated it was time for a change.
"We needed to look at how we could make the customer experience at the curb much more advantageous. We went through this with Unicity (Taxi) when we did our single-service (agreement) with them," Payne said. "It is being done for a variety of reasons but mainly it is the customer service component. We want the experience for the customer to be standardized on demand."
The larger operators say over 90 per cent of their business is pre-arranged.
"This has been an ongoing issue with customer service because there are so many operators. I believe there's 21 limousine companies that are contracted to do on-demand service out of the Winnipeg airport and everybody has different ideas of what is customer service," said Rick Brar of Hollywood Limousine Service, who has 25 cars in its fleet.
Payne said the WAA had three meetings with all the limo drivers to outline the plan and address any concerns on Jan. 24, Feb. 25 and March 21.
Sam Sarai of Executive Limousine Service said more than 40 limousine drivers would have their livelihood affected if they are not able to work as an on-demand service at the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.
"Companies in Winnipeg have limited access to the public. Taxi cabs are allowed to pick up customers off the curb but unfortunately limousine companies are restricted," Sarai stated.
Payne said all limo drivers who operate out of the airport have been offered new contracts by the WAA for pre-arranged service. Operators who have signed contracts with the WAA can continue to provide pre-arranged service for their customers.
Payne said WAA data from surveys show customer trips in limousines from the airport are 40 per cent on demand and 60 per cent pre-arranged.
Tenders for the single limousine operator for on-demand trips closed on March 26 and are currently being reviewed.