Airport restricts e-hailing drivers

East London’s King Phalo Airport in collaboration with other security role players has clamped down on drivers by enforcing safety measures in the airport’s parking bays that e-hailing drivers believe unfairly discriminates against them.

These claims have been rebuffed by airport management who insist e-hailing services such as Bolt and Uber are not being targeted but that this perception is being created because a close public security collaboration between SAPS, King Phalo and BCMM law enforcement was missing until recently.

Airport manager Nicole Smith said: “We now have a relationship with security entities, SAPS and metro officials. They provide public safety to passengers and users at the airport and people are comfortable with that because it hasn’t been there before.

“Because things were not done a certain way before, now people are feeling that the airport is not wanting them there, but the airport doesn’t have the authority to forbid anyone entry.”

The safety measures prohibit drivers from obstructing an entrance to or a passage to the terminal building in a manner that inconveniences other users, as well as committing any act which amounts to nuisance or disorderly and indecent conduct. Drivers are required to use designated facilities and abide by the rules thereof.

These measures are confirmed to be in line with the national key point and SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) regulations.

Smith said: “We are committed to not only providing a safe environment but also to boosting our region’s reputation among visitors. Safety and security remain a priority for our business albeit being a licensing requirement by the SACAA.”

According to an Uber driver in Greenfields, these measures have a negative impact on their capacity to transport passengers to the airport.

“They [airport staff] won’t allow us in anymore. If they catch you inside, you must pay a R2,000 fee. They are taking our business away,” the driver said.

One Bolt rider, Unathi Lupuwana, claims that a member of the security cluster stopped her driver and prohibited him from entering the airport parking bay.

“When we got to the access point there was an airport employee who was stopping each car to find out if they were Bolt, Uber or private cars. She said Bolt drivers were not allowed to go in and didn’t give an explanation about why.

“I had to get off there and walk the rest of the way to the airport. It was incredibly inconvenient because I still had to pay full price to the Bolt driver, despite having to walk the rest of the way in the cold.

“When I came back on Friday evening, there were no Bolt rides available, people were standing around. I ended up having to take a taxi, which was not part of my plan,” said Lupuwana.

Phola Sakawuli, who works at the airport and is also a Bolt driver after hours, says she has been affected by the regulations.

“I have received a fine already. But I do understand the problem. Many of these Uber and Bolt drivers don’t just drop off, they park in the parking areas meant for rental cars, cause noise and disruptions.

“So now they get fined for being in the airport parking area. We must drop off and pick up only so that the flow of traffic is not disturbed,” Sakawuli said.

A frequent flyer between King Phalo Airport and Oliver Tambo International Airport noted the differences between the two airports.

“Oliver Tambo has designated areas for e-hailing vehicles. This is something that East London Uber and Bolt drivers need to take up with ACSA,” he said.


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