Catching a taxi at Charlottetown Airport better, but not yet 'perfect'

Charlottetown Airport still working with taxi companies to ensure that passengers are not left stranded with lengthy waits after long flights.

'Everyone was talking about the fact that this is not a good reception'

Cab companies said it can be difficult to have vehicles parked and waiting at the airport for a plane to land when there are other passengers needing rides elsewhere in the city. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

A couple returned on a flight to P.E.I. late Saturday evening to discover not enough taxis outside of Charlottetown Airport.

Jessie Inman said they arrived around 11:30 p.m. and ended up outside with around 15 other people — all waiting for a taxi.

After 40 minutes, she said only one cab came and her husband was concerned that it might be much longer before any more taxis would arrive.

So they decided to take matters into their own hands.

"We went and we rented," Inman said. "We were lucky we got a very large van and we had room for ... five groups and we simply shared the cost of the vehicle rental and we took it back the next day but we were able to drop off four different couples or groups of people at several locations."

Inman said the airport commissioner was being very helpful, but not enough cabs were showing up.

"I was glad that we did it because everyone was talking about the fact that this is not a good reception, to arrive for their vacation and not have a way to get to their accommodation."

Jessie Inman says she would like to see the issue of airport taxis resolved so that tourists get a better first impression of P.E.I. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

The Charlottetown Airport Authority said this is an unusual event since they changed the rules around which taxi companies could go to the airport.

CEO Doug Newson said they moved away from a contract with a single cab company to opening it up to any registered taxi that can do pick ups at the airport.

Much better service

"We've gone from basically having 30-35 cars with one taxi stand to about 115 licensed taxi drivers in the city that can now come to the airport," Newson said.

That has led to a dramatic decrease in the number of complaints from people stuck outside waiting for a cab.

Newson said there is always an option to pre-arrange a taxi.

They also have low parking fees and free parking for an hour, intended to make it easier to either leave your car at the airport or have someone pick you up.

Doug Newson, CEO of the Charlottetown Airport Authority, says that 12 taxis were at the airport that Saturday night, but they could have used another 10 or 12 cars for the number of people waiting. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Newson said they have received only a handful of formal complaints about the taxi service over the last year, where previously, they could get that many in a month.

"Although it may not be perfect … the stats and the numbers would show that wait times are down and the number of cars that are here as flights arrive are certainly up," Newson said.

Charlottetown Airport Authority also hired full-time commissioners to help passengers find transportation and raised the amount that cab drivers can charge to take passengers to and from the airport.

Large planes arriving at the Charlottetown Airport can lead to waits for a taxi, but according to the Charlottetown Airport Authority, for less time than it did in the past. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

The airport collects data on the number of cabs that show up and the number of cabs used to try and predict how many may be needed in the future. But some passengers may be parked or have rides, so it can often be a challenge to figure out how many is the right number of taxis per flight.

Newson said the bigger planes flying into Charlottetown in recent years has meant that there are even more people needing transportation.

"There is probably on average 12 cars required for those planes, some days it might be 15," Newson said. "The other night there was 20 required."

Charlottetown airport is predicting a drop of up to 80 per cent in passenger traffic for 2020. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

CBC spoke with a couple of cab companies that serve the Charlottetown area on Tuesday about the lack of taxis at the airport.

They said opening up the contract to all companies has helped, as well as increasing the airport fares.

The challenge, they said, can be balancing loyal, regular customers with meeting demand at the airport.

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With files from Jessica Doria-Brown