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Yellow Cab wants Uber, Lyft to charge extra fees for rides at Tampa International Airport

Louis Minardi, the president of Yellow Cab, addresses the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017.
Louis Minardi, the president of Yellow Cab, addresses the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017.
Published Feb. 2, 2017

TAMPA — The fight between taxi cabs and ridesharing services Uber and Lyft has landed at Tampa International Airport and, barring an agreement, the next layover may be in the courts.

Upset with ridesharing companies getting free access to the airport, Yellow Cab president Louis Minardi wants to rework the company's contract with Tampa International Airport, which costs roughly $35,000 a month, paid for by an additional airport fee by taxi riders.

"I don't mind paying as long as everyone pays," he told the board of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority meeting Thursday morning. "To have another service in here picking up for free, I have a problem with that."

Under Yellow Cab's current contract with the airport it pays a fee for each passenger who steps off a plane at TIA. Uber and Lyft, who have been operating without a contract, are undercutting their prices because they don't have to pay that fee and are taking customers from the cab companies, Minardi said

In a cordial back-and-forth with Hillsborough County Commissioner and former Public Transportation Commission (PTC) chairman Victor Crist, Minardi explained that he wanted a system where his company would rather pay per ride than per plane passenger. He said they would agree to certain audit provisions that are included in the county's deal with the ridesharing companies.

"Our technology is as good anyone's," Minardi said. "We can keep track of the cars who are picked up here, where they go and where they come back from."

He also hinted that the company could lower its standards at the airport. He said that the cabs pay higher insurance rates, require airport-specific trainings for drivers, and only allow that drivers have been for the company for at least a year to passengers there. The airport also has a designated cab stand for passenger pickups.

Both sides acknowledged that the negotiations could get messy:

"If we were to move forward expeditiously to create a method that is more fair, that would certainly lower the risk of us possibly having a lawsuit, right?" Crist asked.

"I'm sure of that," Minardi responded.

"Working with you guys, I'm sure of that too," Crist said.

Aviation Authority chief executive Joe Lopano said "we can't change the payment plan" because of the budget has already been set for the fiscal year, which ends in September. Yellow Cab's contract was first signed in 2004 and is in place through Feb. 28, 2018.

"I think the relationship between us and the taxis has been fairly transparent," he said. The deal with Uber and Lyft, meanwhile, "is in the hands of the PTC."

Also during the meeting, Al Illustrato, vice president of facilities and administration, reported that one phase of the airport's $971.9 million renovation has hit a speed bump.

The airport's new 2.6 million-square-foot rental car facility will not open to the public until early 2018, rather than in the fall of this year. The overall construction budget is where it should be though, with $560 million spent so far.

December ridership was down 0.4 percent compared to 2015, with 1,650,321 travelers. International ridership also dipped by 0.2 percent to 72,876 passengers.

January, however, was a record breaker. The day after the College Football Playoff National Championship, 910 planes landed and took off from Tampa International — more than any other day in almost a decade.

The airport also reported that 75 flights landed and took off at Tampa International at between 2 and 3 a.m. on Jan. 10, making it the busiest airport in North America during that hour. St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport also doubled its typical air traffic, with 22 total flights on Jan. 10.

Starting this month, Delta will offer two direct flights to Boston Logan International Airport. Spirit is also starting direct flights to Boston that will run from Feb. 16 to April 26.

Contact Alli Knothe at aknothe@tampabay.com. Follow @KnotheA.