Dec. 20--The Public Utility Commission has ruled that Capital City Cab Service can pick up fares on a "hail" basis at Harrisburg International Airport, but airport officials still are turning away the company's cabbies.
"They are acting as if this order doesn't exist," said Joe Sucec, attorney for Ayal Salam, owner of Capital City Cab Service.
HIA Aviation Director Fred Testa insists that the PUC has no power to intervene in the airport's exclusive contract with another taxi company to provide hail service. Hail service refers to flagging a cab for a ride rather than calling ahead for one.
The PUC found that Capital City Cab is certified by the state commission to serve all of Dauphin County.
Therefore, the airport, which is in Lower Swatara Twp., can't force the company to abandon part of its service area. The order says Capital City Cab "remains authorized to render such service on a hail basis at Harrisburg International Airport."
Testa likened the situation to being authorized to carry a gun. But, he said, the airport could still stop you from carrying that gun into the terminal. "We have the right to set our rules in our buildings," he said.
Sucec filed a petition on Friday with the PUC requesting a finding of contempt of the order. "The final order obligates drivers to pick up at the airport. SARAA is deterring drivers from doing that," he said.
The Susquehanna Area Regional Airport Authority, which owns and operates HIA, awarded a contract in May 2004 to American Taxi of Harrisburg for the sole right to provide hail service at the airport. Shortly thereafter, Capital City Cab filed a complaint with the PUC.
Capital City Cab and other taxi companies still can deliver fares to the airport. They also may meet a pre-arranged fare there, but they must park on one of the upper floors of the garage, escort their passengers from the terminal to the cab and pay a $10 fee to HIA.
American Cab leases space on the ground floor of the garage where passengers are directed for cabs, buses and limousines. The cab company pays HIA a percentage of its income from its airport fares, which so far this year has amounted to about $35,000 in revenue for the airport, according to Testa.
American Cab also must meet certain standards set by the airport, which Testa said are intended to protect the public. Those include sending only cabs that are four or fewer years old, requiring drivers to submit to random drug and alcohol testing and insuring their cabs for $300,000, rather than the $35,000 required by the PUC.
"Every airport has some sort of rules and regs on cabs. And a goodly number of them contract for exclusive service," Testa said.
Salam insists the airport is depriving people of choice. "Competition is always in the favor of the public," he said. "SARAA doesn't allow you to decide the [cab] company you want to ride with."
Salam said he welcomed the PUC's action because the airport had been treating his drivers "like we are second-class citizens."
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Last month, 103,378 travelers flew into or out of HIA, a 5.58 percent decrease from September 2004.
The Susquehanna airport authority hired Testa in 2001 to take over management of Harrisburg Int'l Airport after years of declining passenger traffic.
"It might take six months to a year to get an increase in people. If I am the contractor, I can hire people right away, faster than the federal government."