San José taxi drivers are battling new fees and a strict dress code.

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Just in time for Thanksgiving travel season, dozens of taxi drivers refuse to serve Mineta San Jose International Airport due to a dispute with the airport’s new taxi dispatch contractor, which has imposed new fees and a strict dress code for drivers.

Safer, LLC is a Brazilian company hired earlier this year by San Jose Airport as a taxi dispatch service. The company has sought to impose a 25% per-trip charge on drivers along with other lower charges. Under a previous deal, taxi drivers paid $ 330 per month to service the airport, said taxi driver Kirpal Bajwa, who is organizing the walkout.

The company also imposed a new dress code that requires drivers to wear a tie featuring the Safer logo, black dress shoes, black gloves and a black winter jacket.

“We are not Safer employees, we are independent contractors, we supply our own vehicles,” said Kabede Kaba, a taxi driver. “They want free publicity.”

Neither San Jose Airport nor Safer, LLC responded to requests for comment on Friday afternoon.

The protest threatened to upend taxi service at the airport as the Thanksgiving travel rush approached. Taxi drivers said they plan to continue to strike over the holidays unless a new service charge deal is reached.

Bajwa, who leads the denial of service, said the main problem for the drivers was not the ties, which he adds are “very uncomfortable”, but the 25% burden on the drivers. “We have so many other expenses. That’s too much. ”He said Safer initially presented itself to drivers as a way to recoup some of Uber and Lyft’s traffic and that the 25% charge would only apply to organized trips. through Safer partnerships with travel agencies, not walk-in taxi requests. Instead, Bajwa says, Safer employees try to deter walk-in cyclists from interfacing with walk-in riders. drivers and go to their company kiosk.

Taxi drivers protest outside the DoubleTree Hotel near the San Jose Airport on Wednesday, November 17, 2021 in San Jose, Calif. (Photo courtesy of Ishtiaq Shakur)

According to a note from John Aitken, the airport’s director of aviation, taxi rides from San José have been decimated by Uber and Lyft. Taxi volumes were on average 1,100 trips per day before the rise of carpooling applications and dropped to 360 daily trips before the 2020 pandemic. In January 2021, taxi trips were on average 26 per day.

Safer is a technology company that integrates air ticketing with on-demand and on-foot ground transportation. The company, which has never served an American airport, has a strong presence in Brazil.

Safer was the only company to respond to a request for an offer from San José Airport to run a door-to-door taxi and shuttle service. City council unanimously approved the two-year contract with an optional three-year extension in March.


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