Taxi surcharge irks frequent St. John's flyer

A passenger who usually takes taxis from St. John's International Airport to his home is reconsidering his mode of transportation because the taxi company has put a $5 surcharge on passengers travelling from the airport to private homes.
Gary Gushue, City Wide Taxi's airport dispatcher, explains the new surcharge to taxi fares between St. John's International Airport and local residences. 8:35

A frequent flyer is upset by a $5 surcharge that a St. John's taxi company is charging passengers travelling from the airport to private homes.

City Wide Taxi, which has an exclusive contract with the St. John's Airport Authority, started charging the extra five dollars — on top of the meter rate — on Monday.

"I think it's just a money grab," said Ross Klein, a resident of the west end of St. John's who usually takes taxis from the airport to his home.

Klein, a Memorial University professor, writes about the cruise ship industry and flies a lot. He first learned of the $5 surcharge earlier this week when he arrived home from a trip to Vancouver.

"I think they [City Wide Taxi] are going to lose business," said Klein.

"Certainly I'm not going to be calling City Wide for my taxi trips to the airport or anywhere else in town because it reflects a bad attitude."

Change happened after contract renegotiation

The changes came into effect after City Wide renegotiated its contract with the airport in February.

"Before, it used to be a flat rate, different zones," explained Gary Gushue, City Wide's airport dispatcher. "So this time around we have gone to meter.

"And we are $5 on top of the meter. So what you are really paying for here is the service, having someone to meet you here, take your luggage, put it in the car, then off you go to your house."

Gushue pointed out that people who live close to the airport will pay less for the ride home.

"Say Jasper Street, which is across from Dairy Queen on Portugal Cove Road," said Gushue. "It used to be $17.50 these last five years. Now it will go by the meter which is probably 11 dollars plus the five which is $16. So those people are saving.

"The only ones that will find a difference is the people going further out of town like Holyrood, Conception Bay South, Mount Pearl, Paradise."

City can't get involved

Coun. Tom Hann, chair of the St. John's taxi committee which usually sets rates, said there's nothing the city can do. He said the arrangement between the airport and City Wide is a tender call, so the city likely has no jurisdiction. 

Klein said the surcharge meant he didn't have enough money to tip his driver. "I said to the guy, "I usually give a $5 tip, but today your $5 tip is the surcharge."'

Gushue agreed the change would hit drivers the hardest.

"They are going to loss their tip because before, if you were going over to Airport Heights, it was $12.50 and people would give you the $2.50," Gushue said. "That was going to the driver. Now, he is going over, probably getting $5 on the meter and $5 on the surcharge - that's $10. So he will probably lose some tips in that run."

The St. John's Airport Authority is expected to address the issue with the media on Thursday.