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Paul Brennan: How to work the flyers

There are many myths surrounding working Heathrow, some are even true.

Firstly I’m ‘contractually’ obliged on behalf of those drivers that already work the flyers to say if you’re thinking of working the flyers, DON’T.

Historically it’s always been advisable to get a couple of years working town under your belt before you venture out west, it’s a path that many, myself included have followed.

Heathrow is London’s biggest rank, with up to 500 cabs ‘putting on’ at any one time. But when all is said and done it is just another rank, albeit one like no other. For example; there are some destinations that will get you a return ticket which means if you can complete the job and get back to a terminal within 1 hr you can rejoin that rank without the need to pay or go through the feeder park system. But for the uninitiated (and even some seasoned pros) there appears little or no reason as to which job is or is not a return ticket. (See further down for the local journey list) Also as well as working to the law of the land, hackney carriage law we also have to know and work within Heathrow’s own Byelaws which can also be read further down.

The current average wait for a job is around 4 hrs, and that time will be spent in very close proximity to a few hundred other cabbies and that is something which takes some getting used to. Some drivers will spend that time talking to mates, some learning to play an instrument others clean their cab or even have 40 winks. But all will spend some time wishing they never put on in the first place.

If there is one piece of advice I can give it would be to understand that working the flyers is a gamble, the stake is your time. The prize, a long roader that gets you a day’s money in a few short hours. Problem is, as with any gamble sometimes you will win but sometimes and more often than not, you will lose or at best break even. So if you’re a sore loser or can’t afford to gamble, don’t play the game. Be under no illusion if you come to work the airport, you will make mistakes and have a run of bad luck that will cost you. If you still want to give it a go then the following is a few extracts from a new driver’s guide to working Heathrow that will be given to new drivers.

If you want to know more all the orgs have reps at the airport who will happily give members a more detailed rundown should you so require.

Getting to the feeder park

The Heathrow Taxi Feeder Park is situated in Newall Rd just off the Northern Perimeter Rd. There are several methods of entering the airport. More often than not, it will be by the M4 Spur Road. You may also enter via the M25, A30 or A4 but regardless of how you enter the airport periphery, the number one rule is do not pass another driver on the M4 spur or any of the perimeter roads. Basically, anywhere on the airport. This will cause disagreements between drivers. At the feeder park

On your first visit to the feeder park you will need to register yourself onto the system. This is done in the ‘cab-in’ located at the rear of the North feeder park, you will require your ‘bill & badge’ and £10.

When entering the taxi feeder park, where possible go directly to the south park (this will be on your right). Fill the lanes from right to left leaving no gaps, be patient. If the south park is full then go to the north park, same rules apply fill up the lanes. It is advisable to maintain a surplus of credits for the park. There is a minimum and maximum amount that you can top up, make sure that you familiarise yourself with the amounts. Get your credits whilst in the north park. If unfortunately, you do run low, do not block the entrance. Pull over to the side, it’s only good manners. If you do wish to use the fuel facilities near the feeder park, please do so before entering the system.

We have volunteer Taxi drivers acting as north park wardens during the busy morning periods, they will guide you to the correct lane and ask you to fully fill up the lanes properly. This is done to help minimise the occasions when taxis are queueing in the road. They are there to help YOU… do not abuse them.

The roads around the airport are now all designated clearways. If you cannot get into the North Park because it is full and you queue on the road approaching the feeder parks you are liable to be moved on by the police. At worst you could be issued with a fine for stopping on the clearway. It may be a good idea to leave the airport and return later when you know there is room. If in doubt contact the cabin or one of the trade reps for advice

Persistent offenders could find themselves banned from the park for a period of time.

Taxi Rank Agents

When dealing with Taxi Rank Agents please remember they are doing their job as well as they can. Try to be polite do not swear at them, lose your temper or use threatening behaviour towards them. These are also criminal offences. If they are negligent in their duties, or in your opinion act wrongly, the correct course of action is to report the matter to a trade association representative. Remember your hard earned bill could be at stake. General

Always be ready for work. Leaving your cab and blocking the system will lead to disruption and loss of work. Any driver found culpable of such, will face disciplinary action from HAL via its agents. The tag remains the property of Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) at all times. To interfere or tamper with it is a criminal offence. Upon being dispatched you must go to the terminal indicated, not one of your own choice. On route, do not overtake other cabs. If this accidentally happens pull over and allow the other cab to pass you. Don’t forget that almost all of the perimeter road is now subject to a 30 mph speed limit which the Police do enforce, it’s not worth the points on your license so keep within the limits at all times. On arrival at the terminal or buffer fill up the lanes. Do not force other cabs to foul the rank. There have been instances of over-quoting fares for passengers travelling to various destinations. These include both locals and others, with the intention of ‘brooming’ the job. Do not do it. This is bad practice. If you do try to do this another driver behind will almost certainly put you right. It is your job, so do it. Jobs outside the Metropolitan Police Area are negotiable and can be refused. Using the meter gives a good return on the vast majority, or use one of the trade agreed price lists, they are fair to you and your potential customer. If the journey is going some distance, it may be wise to use the meter if there is a dispute at journey’s completion the local police will generally impose a metered fare. If you cannot agree a price don’t let the job walk away, advise the customer to ask another driver for a quote. There are other methods of ‘brooming’ that are all distasteful and counterproductive to the trade in general. We all know the tricks, don’t do it. You will eventually be banned and reported to TfL.

Probably the most distasteful is refusing a wheelchair passenger because ‘your ramps are broken’. If they are, then your cab is not fit for purpose and you will be told to leave the rank.

If your credit card machine is not working in the back of the cab, you will be told to leave the rank. You must get it fixed before returning to Heathrow, and then you will have to go through the whole system again. When on the rank, you may be approached by a potential customer who will ask you to quote a fare. This may be in or out of the Met. Direct them to the point cab. It is NOT your job so therefore is none of your business. You may innocently quote a price which is too much for the customer, causing them to walk away. It may have suited another driver who is willing to do it at a lower price. Direct them to the point cab at all times.

Remember: if a price that you quote is significantly greater than what is a ‘realistic’ price, then this is classed as ‘brooming’. It is the duty of the Taxi Rank Agent to remove a cab driver from the rank for all instances of ‘brooming’. 

Once you speak to a passenger, it’s YOUR job. If your passenger decides not to travel and the driver behind has spoken to the next passenger or has them in their cab…it’s their job.

Every job that walks away means one more cab stays in the feeder park and we all have a longer wait in the park.

If we all work closely to these guidelines then the experience at Heathrow will be a much better one for taxi drivers, staff and most importantly our customers.

We welcome you to Heathrow as part of the taxi family. If you abuse the welcome you will find yourself gone and almost certainly talking to TfL, the police or both. If in any doubt talk to one of the reps, that`s what they are here for. 

The absolute basics • Clean tools of trade, both taxi and driver. • 1st taxi 1st job, but remember the customer has the right to choose any cab on the rank. • No overtaking other taxis on Spur Road or on airport, if you are not sure, don`t do it. • Understand your work, both rules and byelaws, if you breach a byelaw you could be banned from the Taxi feeder park for a period of time. • Do not abuse or argue with other drivers, rank agents or airport officials • Ensure you luggage area is empty. You are at an airport, people will have luggage. • Do not engage your meter until you have undertaken the hiring. • Do not enter the feeder park if your cab is unfit i.e. no ramps or working credit card machine. • The feeder park is a working rank for drivers wishing to go through the Taxi Feeder Park. It is not a free car park, rest rank or a place to wait for private/app jobs. 

Click for Heathrow Byelaws and Fare Zones As one of London’s world famous Taxi drivers, you could be giving a visitor to this city their first impression. Make sure it’s a good one. 

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