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Sudbury airport rejigging taxi service business model

Increase in passenger traffic has prompted review
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While it's mostly a good news story, officials at the Greater Sudbury Airport say that growth in the number of passengers is making it harder for people to get a cab. (File)

While it's mostly a good news story, officials at the Greater Sudbury Airport say that growth in the number of passengers is making it harder for people to get a cab.

Jean Mathieu Chenier, director of marketing and airport development at Fly Sudbury, said an 18 per cent growth in passenger numbers in 2017 — and about a 15 per cent increase so far in 2018 — has prompted a review of the way cab companies do business at the airport.

"It's a good problem to have, but it also poses additional stresses to our service infrastructure," Chenier said. "That is something we're looking to address (considering) the fact the current contract ends at the beginning of July."

The problem, he said, is that smaller regional airports, such as Sudbury's, have a harder time forecasting how many passengers on a flight will want a taxi once they land.

“Will it be two or 20 people today?” Chenier said. "That's a challenge common to airports our size ... It's not like Pearson (in Toronto) or Calgary or Vancouver — we don't have 100 cabs lined up waiting to pick people up."

In 2012, the airport issued an RFP for taxi service, awarding the winning bidder exclusive “queueing rights” — the right to line up outside and serve passengers as they come off their flights.

One of the goals of that contract was to eliminate disputes between cab drivers over who gets the next customer coming out the door.

“Much larger (airports) can dedicate a security person whose job it is to ensure no one is butting in line,” Chenier said. “We just don't have those resources."

But Chenier said passengers can take any cab they want to the airport, and any company can pick them up, too, as long as the passenger calls ahead to make arrangements beforehand.

"We strongly recommend and encourage passenger to ... prearrange to make sure you have someone waiting there for you," he said. "Any taxi or shuttle company can come here when it's prearranged."

With the current taxi contract expiring July 8, Chenier said the airport is putting the finishing touches on a new RFP that aims to address the “growing pains” that the increase in passenger numbers has caused.

"We're very aware of the challenges, through feedback we get from passengers, and we're always working to try and improve customer satisfaction,” he said. "We're spending our time and energy looking at the terms of reference for the next service contract, to look at ways to address some of the challenges."

While it's unlikely a new contract will be in place before the beginning of July, Chenier said the airport will extend the current arrangement until a new deal is in place.

“We hope it will be a matter of weeks, not months,” he said. "We hope that within July we'll have something in place."



Darren MacDonald

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