No Hails for Airport Cab Service
And here I thought the Canadian Rockies had a lot of rain! For the 10 days I hiked around Banff and Jasper, there were showers everyday. Blue skies one minute, an ice squall the next. But that was nothing compared to the deluge that greeted me Sunday night (or rather in the wee hours of Monday morning thanks to all the air-traffic weather delays) at D.C's Ronald Reagan National Airport.
And once again, the complete chaos there proves that Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has a long way to go in serving its customers. Hundreds of travelers waited for nonexistent cabs in a line that double looped from one end of the new terminal to the other. It was a complete free-for-all; the only people who got cabs were those who bucked the system, dropped out of the authorized cab-waiting line and hailed cabs from the outside pick-up lane. They were fighting one another for the taxis. The airport police were no help, either. One parked a police car conspicuously at the beginning of the pick-up lane, thus deterring many drive-by cabbies from picking up desperate passengers. He stayed in the car and never bothered to stop any cabbie, so I'm not quite sure why he was there.
Taxi service from Reagan National and Dulles has always prompted lots of complaints from friends and readers; unfortunately I got to personally experience it Monday morning. As any traveler knows, the weather is beyond our control. Sometimes, companies and organizations deal with it well; sometimes they don't. (The same goes for people.) I got a taste of both sides on Sunday night. Delta handled the weather--and its customers--well; I wish I could say the same for the airport authority.
My flight from Calgary connected in Atlanta; despite weather delays in Altanta, my flight arrived on time. But my 8:30 p.m. flight home was delayed--at first until 10:10, then 10:30. I decided to try my luck going standby on the 9:30 flight that was supposed to leave at 9:45. The gate attendants were all helpful and efficient, despite the massive delays. Helping them was a handy electronic screen posted above the gate that let passengers know exactly where they stood in the standby queue and how many seats remained open. It was constantly updated (sometimes for the worse, as my name at one point dropped from number 7 to 27 when a group of passengers from another cancelled flight were abruptly registered on the list). But it certainly cut down on the suspense and had to help the agent since no one had to pester her about his/her status. So congrats to Delta (and any other airline that has instituted this process).
Making it on standby turned out not to shorten my trip once air-traffic control held all flights into Reagan National until the showers were over, around 11:30 p.m. That pushed my arrival time into D.C. to 1:30 a.m. Of course there were no cabs, and it was raining so hard some of the roads in and out of the airport were closed.
When I first joined the taxi line at 1:30, I was on the inside of the double-loop. Facing me on the outside loop was a man in an orange T-shirt who had joined the line at 12:30; he had only moved up about 20 feet in that hour and had at least 200 more feet to go before he got to the head of the line. Eventually, the taxi dispatchers realized there were available cabs coming through the unauthorized lane, the outside one used by local residents to pick up travelers. They started hailing them, but only for those passengers brave enough to leave the authorized line and get wet. And the dispatchers stopped these taxis in the middle of the road, tying up traffic behind them. Meanwhile, the passengers who remained in the authorized line never got a cab. It was a horrible mess. And I suspect Dulles was probably even worse since that airport seems to always have a cab shortage.
I gave up, called home and woke my husband, who gladly came to my rescue. Thank you, Gary!!! As we left the airport at 2:30, I spotted the man in the orange T-shirt; he had moved another 20 feet; only 180 more to go. I hope he's made it home by now.
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