Limo Operators Ask Disney to End Orlando Int'l Airport Deal

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Limousine operators asked airport officials Monday to end an arrangement that allows Walt Disney World to whisk visitors directly to the resort without having to wait for luggage, saying it has given the company an unfair advantage and could put many of them out of business.

Disney's Magical Express has been an important new marketing tool for the theme park, but the Greater Orlando Livery Association says it has cost its members at least $100,000 a month in business at Orlando International Airport, the state's busiest, since the program started in May.

"Disney has incredible access. No other shuttle service has the type of access that Disney has," said Larry Colleton, an attorney for the association, which has about 200 members with 600 vehicles.

Colleton sent Bill Jennings, executive director of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, a letter Monday asking him to cancel the airport's contract with Disney. Airport spokesman Rod Johnson officials were aware of the letter but didn't have any immediate comment.

Disney pays the airport authority 50 cents a passenger, or about $2,500 a day to allow them to operate the service.

Disney spokesman Jacob DiPietre said the company hasn't violated any of the provisions of its contract with the airport authority. About 5,000 of the 90,000 travelers who pass through the Orlando airport each day use Magical Express.

"This service has created hundreds of new jobs and injected millions of dollars into our local economy," DiPietre said.

Unlike limo employees, Disney workers have access to the airport's third floor where they have picked up not only visitors with reservations for the bus service but those travelers in need of transportation to the theme park resort who don't have an advanced booking, a violation of the contract, Colleton said in the letter.

Disney employees also have access to the baggage claim area and a section behind the luggage carousel, places usually restricted to airport and airline baggage handlers, giving the theme park resort another leg up on the limo operators, Colleton said.

Disney's Magic Express lets visitors on domestic flights, staying at Disney hotels, check their luggage at their hometown airports and bypass waiting at the luggage carousel at the Orlando airport. Visitors find their luggage in their Disney hotel rooms at check-in after arriving at the resort by motor coaches provided by a Disney contractor.

The airlines participating in the service, which use specially marked baggage tags, include American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Song, United Airlines and Ted.

Critics have said that the service is yet another way Disney tries to keep its visitors on Disney property without access to other theme parks, shops or restaurants.

"There will be less and less competition because more and more small businesses who make up GOLA will no longer exist," Colleton said in the letter.