LIHUE — A tentative agreement was recently reached between Lihue Airport administrators and taxi drivers who were threatening to strike if their demands for a curbside presence at the terminal continued to be ignored.
The airport’s manager, Craig Davis, met with a handful of cab drivers on Friday to hear their proposal and said he is amenable to their request for two taxi parking spaces — one at each end of the terminal — and a greeting booth near the baggage-claim area.
Davis said Monday that the drivers’ propositions at last week’s meeting sounded reasonable and that, pending an official proposal submitted in writing, he will probably grant the taxi drivers’ requests within a week.
“I didn’t have any heartburn with any verbal suggestions,” Davis said. “We’re just trying to make everyone happy. It’s a tough job.”
A draft has already been prepared and was on display at the airport taxi dispatch office on Monday. Steven Carvalho, one of the cab drivers who has helped organize the effort, said the proposal will likely be submitted to Davis’ office after all the drivers get a chance to review the page-and-a-half document.
The proposal includes four requests. Drivers are asking for one cab to be allowed to wait at the end of each terminal to “help the arriving passengers see the presence of taxi service,” as well as additional signs “to increase visibility of the taxi dispatch phone,” and a dispatcher and greeters in the arrival section of the airport “to welcome our guests with aloha spirit.”
Davis said he has already agreed to put up more signs and told drivers a work order for the project has already been submitted.
“We want to give them support just like with all our tenants,” he said.
Prior to Friday’s sit-down, taxi drivers had been trying unsuccessfully for the past month to negotiate a meeting with Davis. According to Carvalho, the meeting was arranged when a group of drivers, leaving the airport office area following yet another failed attempt to speak with Davis in his office, ran into an airport official willing to listen to their complaint and act as an intermediary.
The dispute between Lihue Airport administrators and the taxi drivers dates back for years, but recent amendments to state Department of Transportation Airports Division rules to allow ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to make airport pickups has prompted increasingly insistent demands from the drivers, who say their livelihood is being threatened.
Ride-share companies were allowed to start picking up customers at selected airports across the state beginning Feb. 1, and cab drivers at the Lihue Airport noticed the effects immediately. Multiple taxi dispatchers and drivers said their customer load dropped dramatically in the weeks following the rule change, and estimated they get only half the number of fares they used to before the rule change.
Taxi drivers at Lihue Airport are required to park in a lot separate from the terminal and can only pick up customers who call the airport’s dispatch service from a phone near the baggage claim. Many cab drivers feel the rule creates unnecessary expenses for taxi drivers, is inconvenient for their customers and hurts their business.
DOT officials have said the statewide policy against taxis parking at the terminal is in place to reduce congestion and allow more curb space for travelers, but many cab drivers insist the arrangement in Lihue is unique and puts them at a competitive disadvantage.
Two designated taxi parking spaces are already in place at each end of the terminal and had been used in the past until a dispute among cab drivers years ago led to an administrative decision to relegate drivers and dispatchers to a nearby parking lot.
Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.