Airport change could put some taxi drivers out of work

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - How many cab drivers should be allowed pick up and drop off fares at the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport? It's a debate that has been going on for months.

Some airport officials have indicated that 14 companies are too many, and whittling down that number makes sense. Cab drivers disagree.

"My concern, sir, is that is that people that actually make their living by working the airport, and provided good service for the airport customers will not be allowed to work if they're not one of the chosen companies," cab driver Andy Smith said.

Meeting with airport officials Wednesday morning, the drivers say possible cutbacks don't make sense. Leisa Leisy is the president of the Gulf Coast Taxi Association.

"Now they are trying to change it where only one to three companies can stage here. We run out of taxis as it is. So I am very concerned about client and customer service," Leisy explained.

Airport officials say that's not the case.

"Well, the goal is not to limit the number of companies," Airport Executive Director Clay Williams explained. "The goal is to enhance the standards that the companies have to adhere to operate at the airport, again trying to provide that positive customer service experience."

Drivers like Jack Gazzo Jr. don't see it that way.

"The tourist people who I have been driving for years and years and years, they call me to pick them up here. And if I'm not allowed to pick up here, that hurts my pocket," Gazzo said.

Many of the cab divers and cab companies say they're paid the fees and dues that allow them to operate at the airport. They say taking that right away now could lead to something even more serious: litigation.

"There will be definitely a consideration of a possible lawsuit. Not just me, it will be other owners, too," said cab company owner Kenneth Brown.

Airport commissioners discussed the possible changes to taxi service during a work session Wednesday afternoon. They could vote on the matter at the next regular meeting set for later this month. Both sides are hoping for a compromise that won't lead to court.

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