CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The airport parking lot where taxis gather for picking up fares was empty yesterday as drivers opted not to show up. About six employees of Ampco System Parking were still on the job. Normally, there are up to 200 cars in the lot.
Airport taxicabs continue protest
Fewer drivers increases the wait time about five minutes
Oahu taxicab drivers stayed away from the Honolulu Airport for a second straight day yesterday to protest what they say are unfair practices by employees of Ampco System Parking, which runs the airport's taxi dispatching service.
Fewer drivers showed up for airport service, increasing the wait time for a taxi by about five minutes, said Scott Ishikawa, state Department of Transportation spokesman.
The state is looking into complaints that Ampco dispatchers call favored drivers for big fares rather than the next driver in line and that employees harass drivers with unnecessary searches, Ishikawa said.
Arshad Khan waited 15 minutes for a taxi to take him to the Kaheka Street area after stepping off a flight from Cincinnati yesterday. Some curbside dispatchers let travelers know there would be delay in getting a taxi.
"He said it's going to take a little while," Khan said.
Taxis are usually at the curb waiting for passengers when he returns to Honolulu, said Fred White, who arrived from Las Vegas with wife Noele yesterday. He said their dispatcher did not tell them there would be a delay. After waiting more than 20 minutes, the Whites walked up the curb and waved down one of the rogue drivers. "They should be able to work it out a little more professionally," White said. "It doesn't bother us too much, but think of the tourists."
As the wait for taxis stretched longer than 15 minutes, dispatchers encouraged travelers to take buses or shuttles or to call for their own taxis.
Drivers hoping to pick up fares at the airport are supposed to go to a nearby lot off Rodgers Boulevard, pay their $4 fee to an Ampco Express employee there and wait to get dispatched. Yesterday, the lot was empty. Drivers who turned in to the lot were immediately dispatched to the terminal. Some drivers went to the lot, refused to pay the dispatch fee, then went to the terminal anyway.
In a written statement, Ampco Regional Manager Steve Choo said, "The recent events will be addressed as soon as Ampco Express is formally made aware of the issues in question, be they real or perceived."
He said rules and regulations have been put in place to ensure equality to all registered taxis wishing to operate at the airport and that "Ampco Express has and will continue to address confineable questions and requests" from drivers.
Ishikawa said, "They (Ampco employees) are allowed to do inspections, not searches."
He said the inspections involve checking to see if a vehicle is clean, has enough trunk space and has a working air conditioner.
Ampco took over the taxi dispatching service at Honolulu Airport on May 1, 2004.