It was a long night for many passengers arriving at Saskatoon’s international airport on New Year’s.
Three delayed flights arrived around midnight on Jan. 1, creating a backlog of people waiting for taxis at the airport.
With many cabs still picking up New Year’s Eve revellers in the city, more than 100 passengers were forced to wait in a long line for hours before getting home.
“The line was all through the taxi stand area, all the way outside, all the way back down to the baggage carousel,” said Colleen Christopherson-Cote, who arrived home after a trip to Orlando with her family.
She said the situation was bad enough that the ground co-ordinator at the taxi stand was “stacking” people in cabs together – based on the neighbourhoods they were headed.
Taxis, however, were few and far between.
According to the airport authority, United cabs were arriving every three minutes to pick up passengers. The company has a contract with the airport to have first rights to fares from arriving flights.
Christopherson-Cote said rival companies were dropping off fares, but drove past the stand without picking up passengers.
After more than an hour, she said she flagged down one of the rival cabs and her family began piling their luggage in, while the driver protested.
“He was clearly reluctant to do it,” she said. “He told us he theoretically wasn’t allowed to pick up passengers at the airport, due to United’s contract.”
By the time the family got home, it had been an hour and a half since they started waiting for a taxi.
Christopherson-Cote said she was frustrated during the drive, as she saw several United taxis sitting empty in parking lots, appearing to wait for fares within the city.
“It took us longer to get a cab than it did to fly from Saskatoon to Calgary,” she said.
Chad Munchinsky, manager of customer and terminal services with the airport, said the rival driver shouldn’t have felt he couldn’t pick up fares at the taxi stand.
“When demand cannot be met, other competitors are welcome to operate off of the curb,” he said.
Passengers can also call any company for drop off and pick up at the airport.
Munchinsky said he’s discussed the situation with United, who told him there was more demand than expected within the city due to the province’s new drinking and driving regulations.
“With New Year’s, it’s a struggle since they serve the whole community,” he said.
He added some procedures may not have been properly activated that night, particularly the ground co-ordinator’s authority to call in additional cabs from other companies in times of high demand.
Munchinsky said the airport authority will continue looking into the situation and develop solutions to ensure another backlog doesn’t occur.