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Calgary taxi drivers fear lower ridership as airport introduces new drop-off fees

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Calgarians and visitors to the city who are taking a taxi to the airport will soon have to pay a little extra money for their trip in the new year.

The Calgary Airport Authority is introducing a new $4 drop-off fee for riders who are arriving at the airport and its nearby surrounding area via a taxi, which will go into effect starting on Jan. 15, 2024.

Officials with the airport also announced that an already existing pick-up fee for customers being picked up from the airport will be reduced from $5 to $4.50.

It means taxi riders will have to pay either fee on top of their fare, no matter if they are arriving or departing from the airport via a taxi. The added fee will go directly to the airport.

In a statement, the Calgary Airport Authority said the combined rates are in line with combined drop off and pick up ride-share fees already being paid by rideshare companies Uber and Lyft.

Rob Palmer, VP of Commercial, Strategy & Chief Financial Officer of the Calgary Airport Authority, says it will ‘level the playing field’ for rideshare companies and taxis, all while helping the airport recoup financial losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We appreciate that change in pricing impacts our guests, and these decisions are made after careful consideration and review with the customer experience top of mind,” Palmer said.

“Any revenue collected from current or future fees are reinvested in improvements to our facilities and operations to ensure guests have safe, efficient experiences.”

The new drop-off fee doesn’t just apply to the airport terminals themselves, but also the surrounding area, which includes hotels, parking garages, and business properties.

The area is applied across the airport campus which include Aero Drive/ 11 Street N.E. and adjoining properties on the west, down to McKnight Boulevard N.E., to McCall Way and adjoining properties, and the terminal.

$50 RIDE?

The changes mean an average trip to the airport from downtown will go from the low-$40 range to nearly $50, according to general manager of Associated Cabs, Jeff Garland.

Graland says his team of drivers take about 35,000 trips per month collectively to the airport area. He estimates that the Calgary Airport Authority will make about $140,000 per month off this new fee alone.

“I'm sure it's going to be a bit of a struggle for the drivers and stuff in the beginning as they're going to have to answer questions to customers and stuff like that,” he said.

“It's not like they're getting any of the money. It goes all to the airport authority.”

The new fee structure isn’t sitting well with long-time cab drivers like Sunil Singh. He’s been driving cabs for nearly 40 years, but says he feels taken advantage of and worries about lower ridership.

“It’s going to affect our business because business is already slow,” he said. “I think this is corruption.”

“This includes so many areas and I just don’t know how it’s going to work out, as soon as we enter these boundaries and start a fare.”

The Calgary Airport Authority says it will implement the technology of geofencing to enforce these new fees for taxis arriving or departing from the airport boundaries with a fare.

Once the fare is started, the technology will kick in to establish a virtual perimeter connected to the taxi’s GPS and computer system. It will alert the Calgary Airport Authority and charge the extra $4 fee for a drop-off and the newly-reduced $4.50 fee for a pick-up.

The Calgary Airport Authority still faces major costs following a $200-million restoration of its aging west runway, which is slated to be replaced in 2025.

The Authority adds that these fees will help with those improvements, but it will also be seeking additional funding from the federal and provincial governments due to rising construction costs and inflationary increases.

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