P.G. Taxi granted exclusive airport rights

The Prince George Airport Authority has granted Prince George Taxi the exclusive right to pick up passengers from the taxi stand at the airport terminal.

In exchange, Prince George Taxi must have taxis on hand to serve 95 per cent of the flights that land at the terminal under an agreement that came into play at the start of this year.

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Emerald Taxi will still be able to drop off clients and pick up passengers who are regular account holders, but will not be able to park at the taxi stand.

PGAA communications manager Lindsay Cotter said the agreement was reached in response to an increase in customer complaints about a lack of cabs, particularly for late-night arrivals.

"We've received a couple of complaints every week, whether it be on social media or in person or via our website," Cotter said. "It continually came up."

Both Prince George Taxi and Emerald Taxi were asked to come up with a solution. In response, Prince George Taxi proposed guaranteeing the level of service in exchange for exclusive curbside pickup.

"And at that point, the PGAA approached Emerald Taxi and encouraged them to bring forward an exclusive contract as well and they declined due to their fleet size," Cotter said.

Prince George Taxi 's fleet totals about 60 cabs compared to 16 for Emerald.

Passengers who want to use Emerald can still call in one of their cabs, but it must use the pay parking slots in front of the airport. And Emerald cabbies who are there to pick up a regular account holder must wait in the terminal while holding a sign with the client's name on it.

"It's not about excluding anybody, it's about ensuring that people are having the service they're expecting at an airport," Cotter said. "We've tried to make it work for years with two companies but because we couldn't hold one accountable, it wasn't working.

"So we're hoping that now that we have an exclusive curbside agreement in place, if things aren't working out, we know who to address matters with."

The current agreement will last the year.

"At the end of this year, in the third quarter, we'll review and see whether or not we saw an increase in service and go from there," Cotter said.

The Airporter shuttle service, which uses vans to pick up passengers, will continue as always.

"Nothing has changed with the Airporter," Cotter said.

She said similar agreements are in place at many other airports across Canada.

"We're actually pretty late to the game," Cotter said.

Prince George Taxi assistant manager Sasa Seslija said the company is in the process of tweaking the way things work to provide proper service. There was a reported problem on Monday night when several passengers who arrived in the early morning had to wait about 35 minutes for a cab.

Sesjila said Prince George Taxi is going through a transition phase and that by the end of this month everything should be in place in terms of training staff.

"Are we there yet? Right now, as of January 9th, no, but I'm hoping by the end of the month and throughout the Winter Games, I'm hoping we're going to work miracles," Sesjila said.

Emerald Taxi owner Balraj Bhangoo said he will know in a month or two how much the impact will be, but is hoping the loss will be offset by gaining business elsewhere that Prince George Taxi might not be able to service because cabs have been deployed at the airport.

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