Are Taxi Drivers Their Own Worst Enemy?

Taxis Cause Chaos at Melbourne Airport

Melbourne Airport Blockaded by Taxis 

And what was it all about?

Uber drivers being allowed to pick up and drop off passengers at Melbourne airport. Just like they are all over the world and at other Australian airports.

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In my own state of Queensland, Uber drivers are totally free to pick up and drop off passengers at both the airports I work, Brisbane and Sunshine Coast. It's totally informal at Sunshine Coast - just drop off and pick up wherever convenient. And there's a coffee spot where you can have a coffee and snack while you wait for your next ride. At Brisbane airport, it's a little more formal. There's a designated waiting area for Uber drivers, with the gates activated by your registered e-tag and a designated passenger pickup area.

Both airports have a virtual queue. When you enter the airport precinct you are placed into the queue and drivers are made available to passengers requesting an Uber ride according to their position in the queue. In fact, exactly the way it is for taxis, but controlled by the app instead of being a physical queue.

Esther Demian from the Victoria's Taxi Action Group said the arrival of Uber "muscling in on the airport" would mean ongoing disruptions.

Here's a heads-up, Taxi Action Group. It's all about the passenger's convenience, not your perceived right to be the only option available. What will you do when the Air Train comes? Never mind that Sydney and Brisbane have had theirs for years and Tullamarine desperately needs one. Will you protest the unfair competition then?

Here's What Happened

Here's what happened yesterday August 15.​

“We’re also recommending drivers head to the airport earlier than they might and to use the free Ring & Ride wait zone if they arrive with time to spare.”

“Anyone who’s expecting to pick up an arriving passenger tonight, first check the Melbourne Airport website to see the most up to date flight information,” the airport said.

Angry taxi drivers blockaded roads leading into Melbourne Airport’s main forecourt, protesting against the Uber ridesharing service being allowed to pick up and drop off passengers. The drivers blocked the roads in protest from about 9.30pm last night, leaving passengers stranded. The airport issued a statement confirming the blockade and urged passengers to arrive earlier than previously planned to allow for any delays.

The airport warned passengers catching a departing flight this morning to head to the airport early and check its website for updates. People picking up others from arriving flights are also advised to leave earlier than usual and use the ring & ride wait zone.

The blockade ended close to 11pm and caused chaos for passengers, with one claiming on social media he managed to catch a taxi but was “dumped” on the roadside.

The blockade came 12 hours after it was announced UberX would be allowed to operate at the airport from today. Users will be able to be picked up from two approved wait zones after the Commercial Passenger Vehicle Industry Bill was passed through parliament last week.

The pick-up zones for terminals 1, 2 and 3 is in Lane 1 of the main terminal, while the Terminal 4 pick-up zone is along Departures Drive and the transport hub on Level 1.

It is believed the protests may continue today.

Some Questions for Taxi Drivers

Well, here's a couple of questions that the taxi industry should ponder. Given that ridesharing services are here to stay and that the only way to tackle competition in any industry is to improve your game:

I'm a Mum anxious to get home to my children, but I miss my plane because taxi drivers are blockading the airport.

QUESTION: Will this make me feel warm towards taxi drivers? Am I more likely or less likely to catch a taxi in future?

I'm a business person arriving home from interstate. It takes me over two hours to get home because of taxis blocking the streets.

QUESTION: Am I more or less likely to continue taking cabs for business purposes?

I'm heading off interstate and take a taxi to the airport. I have an important conference to attend. The taxi can't get near the terminal because other taxis are blocking all the entrances. My driver is angry, but not at them. According to him, it's all Uber's fault. He dumps me at the side of the road and leaves me to walk. I miss my plane.

QUESTION: What has the taxi industry achieved? In this case, yet another customer who will never take a taxi again.

I'll Never Catch a Taxi Again

As an Uber driver, this is a comment I hear a lot. "I will never catch a taxi again." Unless the taxi industry takes this seriously and tackles it by improving every dimension of their service, embracing the technology instead of resisting it and begins to capitalise on the advantages that they do have, then their future is doubtful.​

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Phil Lancaster

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