Take my word for it: airport taxi service

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‘Trust me at my word’ is an exciting new series for Calgary Herald digital subscribers where we want to hear from you!

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We take submitted letters to the editor and bring them to life through video, in the words of readers like you.

In the latest letter, we hear from Joe Foley who spoke about the difficulties of getting home from the Calgary airport and sent us the letter below:

Dear Sirs/Madams,

​Calgary wants to be known as a world-class city and just when I think that might be getting closer, someone does a bush league header that dispels that notion like the lifting of the fog.

The latest example of this for me was early Wednesday morning at the airport. After arriving from Toronto at 1am via a few delayed flights, I couldn’t wait to get a taxi to my warm bed and sleep after being awake for over 22 hours. This was not the case. Outside the airport I found a wait of over an hour in the freezing cold and streaks of snow.

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Now I know that YYC has a policy that only allows certain taxis to take rides at only a few points. I expect this will provide some money for the airport authority and possibly the city. This exclusivity also allows the taxi company to charge customers more to get into their taxis at YYC than anywhere else in the city. I would have thought that such a monopoly would be concomitant with the requirement that the taxi company have enough means of transport available to meet the needs of travellers. But alas, I did not arrive at a reasonably managed airport.

To my dismay, after walking through the gates of the airport terminal, I found myself at the end of a long queue. The YYC or taxi employee who should have taken our taxis was instead forcing the taxis to leave without passengers – including the taxis from the company that has the contract for the airport. So we were left to wait while the few available monopoly taxis picked up customers, dropped them off, and then drove back to the airport.

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At 2 p.m. on a hot summer afternoon, I can perhaps see the reason for this policy (and I’ve never found such a queue (although I’ve usually had to wait that a taxi is coming from the waiting area)); at 2am on a dark and freezing spring night, it’s shameful and potentially dangerous for the elderly, children and pets.

Our flight had left Toronto 4 hours earlier, so it’s not like no one knew we were coming. Add to that the arrivals from Kelowna and Fort MacMurray and someone should have foreseen the potential for a black eye for Calgary. Since the taxi company obviously cannot (or does not want to) provide the service that its monopoly grants it, there should be some kind of “code red” that can be invoked in situations like this; it works for ambulances. Since posting on Facebook, I’ve heard from others who have had similar experiences (someone arriving from Panama who was probably not dressed for a chilly November evening in Alberta). A limited code red would at least allow taxis from the same company to pick up customers, and should probably allow all taxis to pick up and eliminate the glut. Or maybe a time-limited policy – the taxi monopoly only operates from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.; after that, any taxi will do. It would also prevent unethical taxi drivers from trying to rip off passengers. A taxi that I forced to stop after being agitated already had 2 passengers and the taxi driver said he could pick me up for $60. The usual fare to my residence, including the unwarranted additional tax, is only a little over $30. At the very least, there are surely people at the airport who can set up and monitor a line inside the gates where you can warm up while you wait. There are solutions if you care to look for them.

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In a city that doesn’t trust consumers to choose their own transportation in YYC, a huge irony in Alberta’s supposedly free and competitive environment, at least competence should be required. I’ve lived overseas in cities much bigger than Calgary and I’ve traveled a lot and I know that in world-class destinations, after arriving by bus, train or plane, you don’t have difficult to find a taxi at the terminals.

And to add insult to injury, this morning I received this on Facebook from a friend – “We’ve arrived in Athens and it’s really beautiful. The first thing we did when we got off the plane was to hail a taxi to take us to Monastiraki Square. Now that’s world class!

Yours,

Joe Foley

If you would like to submit a letter to the editor, please send it to: [email protected]

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