Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Limo firms blast airport decision

Authority plans on sole firm providing on-demand rides

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Several city limousine companies want to put the brakes to a Winnipeg Airports Authority plan to have only a single on-demand limo provider at the airport.

About 20 local operators gathered on the steps of the legislative building Friday to protest the move.

The WAA decision came after complaints about dirty limousines, rude drivers and inconsistent service.

Jag Kailey, who has two cars in his fleet with Rainbow Limousine, said about half of his company's business is from on-demand or walk-up service at the 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?"

But four of Winnipeg's larger limousine services -- Winnipeg Limousine/Winnipeg Coach Service, Hollywood Limousine Service, London Limos and Emerald Limousine Service -- back the WAA's plan.

"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.

Christine Payne, the WAA director of communications and public affairs, said a number of complaints that went through the Manitoba Taxicab Board had 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 rather than walk-up.

"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 Ricky Brar of Hollywood Limousine Service, who has 25 cars in its fleet.

Payne said all limo drivers who operate out of the airport have been offered new contracts by the WAA for pre-arranged service.

Tenders for the single company for on-demand trips closed on March 26 and are currently being reviewed.

Drivers also disagreed on the issue of raising "dwell fees," which translates to the cost of a waiting for pre-arranged customers. This amount has doubled, after five minutes, to $5 from $2.50. The ceiling is $15 after 40 minutes.

"It's unacceptable to pay that kind of money (and) to collect it from my customer. That's what they're telling me, collect it from your customer," said Manjit Singh, who spoke at the protest and was representing a group of about 15 smaller operators.

Gliddon said the increase is simply the cost of doing business.

"If your service is outstanding, you can sell the increases to the customers," Gliddon said. "Other individuals who aren't providing the customer service that they should, it's probably very difficult for them to go back to their customers and ask for more money for something they are already not doing."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPAshleyPrest

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 6, 2013 B1

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