Taxicab drivers, upset about what they view as unfair treatment by officials at Reagan National Airport, staged a protest at the airport authority’s monthly board meeting Wednesday.
More than 40 drivers, led by representatives from the National Airport Taxi Drivers Association, filed quietly into the boardroom and then during a brief pause between meetings, demanded the opportunity to speak to the board.
The drivers contend that airport officials are giving ride-hailing companies such at Uber and Lyft preferential treatment at the airport. They say they’ve been fighting to be heard for more than a year.
Drivers shouted, “We cannot feed our kids because of you guys,” “Shame on the board” and “Is this the land of opportunity?” before they were escorted from the room by security. Others complained about reports that Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority chief executive Jack Potter makes a base salary of more than $451,000 a year — one of the highest among U.S. airport executives — while drivers are scraping to get by.
In a letter to the board, Chand Dhody, a member of the association’s leadership team, said they have met with MWAA Board Chairman Warner Session as well members Mark Uncapher and Walter Tejada, but their concerns have not been addressed.
Their complaints echo those of taxi drivers across the country, who have steadily lost customers to ride-hailing companies. At National, the problem has been compounded by a massive construction project that has forced traffic to be rerouted, upending the normal pickup and drop-off process.
Airports authority officials said despite complaints about being displaced, taxis at National have double the curb space of ride-hailing drivers as well as a dedicated dispatch system. They also noted that taxis pay lower fees to the airport, $3 per outbound trip, vs. ride-hail drivers, wh0 pay $4 per inbound and outbound trip.
“Project Journey construction activity at Reagan National Airport is impacting the airport’s traffic flow, with the greatest impacts on the Terminal B/C Arrivals level roadway due to lane closures and a significant reduction of curb waiting area for passengers to access commercial ground transportation vehicles and private vehicles when departing the airport,” airport spokeswoman Christina Saull said.
“The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is committed to safety, customer service and effective airport traffic operations during Project Journey and acknowledges the complexities of the impacts on all tenants of the airport, including taxicabs,” Saull said. “We are committed to mitigating the impacts of construction as best as can for our tenants, especially commercial ground transportation providers, and customers.”