by Neil Douglas
“Walk to the Z Energy/Burger King and save the $7 airport stand charge – that’s what the young ‘uns do”, my Wellington Combined taxi driver told me on my early morning ride to the Airport last Thursday. “$7 is too much for the airport charge, we don’t get anything for it – it’s just Infratil making money,” he said. “Wellington needs another airport to give them some competition” he added.
I’d started by asking whether he liked the new layout at the airport. He definitely didn’t. “It’s worse than before for dropping off passengers, as it’s too tight with all the car parkers moving in and out, and they should get a more efficient system so we don’t need to use a card so much”.
On my return flight from Sydney last night I decided to save myself $7. It was just after midnight when I got out of the airport – a very pleasant night at 20 degrees with no wind. The Z Energy garage and Burger King restaurant were brightly lit. A taxi was parked there and the driver was inside buying a pie. I asked if he’d take me and he said yes but could he finish his pie first. I waited outside and two minutes later we drove off.
I told him that one of his fellow taxi drivers had told me of the $7 saving. He nodded. “Yes, a few people do walk to the garage,” he said.
I said that in Sydney the airport taxi surcharge was only $3 dollars. “Even three dollars is too much, it should only be two dollars as we don’t get anything for it. It took us ten years just to get a decent toilet. There’s 1,200 taxi drivers and all we got was one small stinking toilet. It was a right mess as you could imagine. We took photos of it and sent them to the Wellington Council. But they took no notice as they have shares in the airport too”.
He told me that each company pays $100,000 a year each for a five cab rank which he reckoned was a million dollars for all the taxi companies and bus shuttles using the airport. That’s only half of it as he went to the airport 4-5 times a day and paid $35 a day in rank fees which worked out at $175 a week and $8,750 a year. So over the 1,200 drivers that’s another million dollars a year that taxi users give Infratil.
Why don’t you organize and protest to try and get the charge down, I asked. “A few have thought about having a strike and refusing to go to the airport but we can’t get anything organized because out of the 1,200 drivers, 1,000 aren’t kiwis and they are so desperate to work that Infratil knows they can charge what they like and we just pass it on to our customers”.
So the $7 charge looks like it’s here to stay. But if you don’t want to pay it, you can do what I did. Walk three minutes to Z Energy and get your taxi from there. There’s likely to be one, because that’s where drivers refuel and even if there isn’t one, you can flag one down or telephone for one and it should be there pretty soon. The more that ‘do the walk’, the more taxi drivers will look out for us and stop at the garage.
Neil Douglas is a transport economist who uses Wellington Airport a lot
Taxi fares at Auckland Airport