- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Cabdrivers at Washington Dulles International Airport are calling for an overhaul of the upcoming exclusive five-year Washington Flyer taxi-concessions deal, citing ongoing management problems and competition from unregulated cabs.

Drivers, who say they have staged eight strikes in the past eight months, want the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to delay awarding the deal. The contract could be voted on as early as next week.

“The drivers want a full and fair evaluation,” said Robert B. Nealon, attorney for the Dulles Airport Taxi Drivers Association, which says it represents 620 of the 650 Washington Flyer taxi drivers.

The contract gives exclusive rights to operate the authority’s Washington Flyer taxi service, overseeing hundreds of vehicles that provide transportation to and from Dulles, which has no rail service.

Dulles Taxi Systems Inc., the current operator, has held the deal since 2000, but drivers say they are frustrated with the company’s management of the concessions operation. Some drivers are calling for a competing company, Dulles Airport Taxi Inc., to get the deal.

Under the concessions arrangement, cabdrivers say they are essentially independent contractors, paying Dulles Taxi Systems $168 a week in taxi-stand fees for the right to operate as Washington Flyers.

However, the Flyer drivers say they have gone from giving about a dozen rides a day five years ago to just three or four during an 18-hour workday.

They say non-Washington Flyer cabs, including cab operations tied to Dulles Taxi Systems, are siphoning off inbound fares from passengers who call for Washington Flyer rides.

“We’ve complained, but our voice isn’t heard by the management,” said cabdriver Shahriar Seyedan, who serves on board of directors of the Dulles taxi drivers association.

Charles O. King, president of Dulles Taxi Systems Inc., disputed the drivers’ contention that private companies under his control are getting Washington Flyer business.

“It’s simply not true,” he said. “As a matter of policy, it’s not being done.”

He also said he doesn’t think that the taxi drivers association represents the views of most drivers.

“I think the vast majority of the airport drivers are generally happy with the way things are operating,” Mr. King said.

The pending contract calls for the taxi operator, which is currently Dulles Taxi Systems Inc., to pay the authority at least $850,000 a year or 20 percent of annual gross receipts, whichever is greater. From 2003 to 2004, the authority received $915,416 from concessions revenue, contract records show.

Tara Hamilton, an airports authority spokeswoman, said the authority has tried to settle differences between drivers and Dulles Taxi Systems over the years through the formation of a taxicab advisory panel.

“There has been a history of drivers using the contract process to bring up their concerns,” she said.

Ms. Hamilton said the airports authority and Dulles Taxi Systems have supported a fuel surcharge and rate increases for drivers.

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