Some taxi drivers at Dulles International Airport went on strike yesterday, waving picket signs and calling for new management, while recruits from other cab companies kept travelers from experiencing serious delays.
It was the fifth strike in three months, coming at a time when Dulles Taxi Systems Inc., which operates Washington Flyer cabs, is seeking to renew its five-year exclusive contract with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which could consider the contract next month, said Rob Yingling, a spokesman for the authority.
Drivers have lobbied for an increase in fares and an additional fuel surcharge in the face of higher gasoline prices. In addition, the 650-car Washington Flyer fleet, contracted to serve the airport, increased by 20 percent last year, intensifying competition for passengers, said Manoochehr Farokhdad, president of the Dulles Airport Taxi Drivers Association, a group of drivers that was established to advocate for better working conditions.
Drivers also allege that management permits favoritism and corruption among dispatchers and some cabdrivers. They said calls from riders who want to be taken to Dulles are diverted to Yellow Cab and Red Top, two other companies owned by Transportation General Inc., which is based in Arlington County and also operates Dulles Taxi Systems.
Charles O. King, president of Dulles Taxi, said the company filed a formal application for a fare increase and a higher fuel surcharge with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission last week. He also said the fleet increase last year coincided with an increase in airport passengers. King said that he takes allegations of favoritism and corruption seriously and that the company tries to monitor dispatch operations. Managers learned of the strike Sunday night and began to contact other cab companies to fill in. By mid-afternoon, there were about 50 people waiting for cabs, but Yingling said the wait was typical for peak times for international arrivals on any given day. At 5 p.m., usually a heavy time for domestic arrivals, passengers waited only minutes for a cab.
Staff writer Danielle Seiss contributed to this report.