HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Passengers arriving in Honolulu could face delays in the coming days, but not because of their flights. Some airport taxi drivers won't be picking up passengers for up to three days due to a dispute over new rules.
Taxi driver Abraham Martin is organizing the work stoppage at the Honolulu International Airport. He said Ampco Express, which manages the taxi system, is forcing changes in the middle of a contract with cabbies that runs through June 30, 2012.
"That's the only way we can object and reject Ampco's new revision, new changes that to us is illegal," explained Martin.
Ampco, which had been on a monthly permit, entered into a five-year contract with the Department of Transportation at the beginning of February. The state said the new guidelines, including a dress code, are aimed at improving customer service.
"Just like any place that you work, we want people to wear aloha shirts, long pants. We want people to take credit cards. That's a service that's pretty standard across the country at major airports," said DOT spokesman Dan Meisenzahl.
"Some drivers are too old. There's no way they no how to use a machine, and sometimes, not enough customers to use credit cards," said Martin.
Ampco raised the price drivers pay for each fare from $4 to $5. Meisenzahl said the company needs the rate hike to make sure that all cabs are equipped to accept credit card payments.
"25% more, how the hell can we survive? Especially with the gas price going up and the loads are way less than before," said Martin.
Martin also alleges that Ampco has bullied minority-group taxi drivers and withheld information about the new contract.
"We think they're really baseless. We don't think there's any intimidation. We don't think there's any discrimination, and we certainly haven't been denying anyone any information," Meisenzahl said.
Meisenzahl said he doesn't expect the work stoppage to have a severe impact.
"It's our understanding that the vast majority of the cabbies are still going to come to work," he said. "We're going to make sure that at the cabbie lot that there's no one out there trying to intimidate cabbies who just want to do their jobs."
Ampco Express did not return our call on Wednesday.