HARLINGEN — For the first time in its 50 years, Valley International Airport has its own cab service.
Platinum Transportation is offering “exclusive” full-day service to customers arriving and departing at the airport.
But the decision to contract with the company has forced other taxi cab companies out of the airport.
Platinum Transportation, part of Grapevine-based company LogistiCorp, began serving the airport Feb. 3 after running a shuttle service to South Padre Island since 2010.
The company also will offer city-wide taxi service, Manager Rene Garza said yesterday.
“We want to bring better transportation,” Garza said.
The airport’s Board of Directors contracted with the company in December to make sure cabs are available to customers at the airport, said Marv Esterly, the airport’s director of aviation.
“It gives us control over the company to make sure they meet our expectations,” Esterly said. “Not only do we want premier service with nice vehicles, drivers and consistent uniforms, we want to make sure a taxi cab is available.”
Across the country, some airports provide taxi exclusive service and others don’t, Esterly said.
Esterly said customer complaints about the unavailability of cabs led the airport to contract with a taxi company.
Cabs were not available “at least several times a week,” with customers waiting from 15 minutes to about an hour, Esterly said.
“We want to make sure our customers have a great experience and making sure they have reliable service is part of our job,” Esterly said.
Garza said Platinum Transportation is starting with three new cabs and plans to hire 11 drivers.
Cabs will be equipped with cell phone apps allowing customers to schedule rides on their phones, Garza said.
Now, Platinum Transportation has exclusive rights to pick up customers at the airport.
As a result, the airport did not renew permits allowing the city’s four other taxi companies to pick up airport customers, Esterly said.
Esterly said the city’s other taxi companies can continue to drop off customers at the airport.
But the airport’s decision could force some of the city’s four other taxi companies out of business, said Rafael Martinez, owner of All-Star Taxi, which operates two cabs.
“They kicked us out,” Martinez said. “They don’t want us there at all.”
Martinez said he used to count on serving about 10 customers a day, paying him about $150.
But losing airport customers has cut 60 percent of his business, Martinez said.
“Now, we’re lucky to get five or six” customers, he said.
On Jan. 26, the city’s four other taxi companies slammed their brakes on the airport.
As part of a boycott, they stopped serving the airport, leaving it without taxi service.
“Why kick us out,” Martinez asked city commissioners in a meeting Feb. 1. “Why can’t we all work as team?”
The boycott led the airport to request Platinum Transportation provide free service to customers through Feb. 3, when the city approved its permit to operate within the city.
“We stepped up,” Garza said. “We took it as an opportunity to get our name out there. We took people by surprise that we were doing it for free.”
Last June, the airport board advertised for a company to serve the airport, informing the city’s four taxi companies of its request for proposals, Esterly said.
Esterly said LogistiCorp, which provides shuttle service to Dallas Love Field, was the only company to present a proposal.
“There are big plans for Harlingen and the airport and we want to be part of it,” Garza said.
But some of the city’s four taxi companies said the airport did not inform them of plans to contract cab service.