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HOTEL TAXIS: THREE reasons why hotel door staff are struggling to find available taxis

Demand for taxi services is currently extremely high, whether it be on the ranks, on the street or via booking apps. However, the supply of cabs will likely be low for some time which for now means the cabbie gets to choose who they service and why.

Given the choice, the most cost-effective way for a licensed taxi driver to work is via the street or rank hail. There’s no lost run-in time, there’s no fees to the app booking platform and less dead-mileage on fuel.

Some booking apps are heavily incentivising cabbies to run those dead-miles and service customers requesting cabs via their mobile devices. While it has arguably had some impact there is one section of customers seemingly struggling to grab a cab when required; that being hotel staff.

Why would hotels struggle to find a taxi?

There are a multitude of complex reasons, and it does vary from hotel to hotel. Ultimately there are three big points of contention; the cost, the risk of cancellation and past experiences.

The cost

Pre-pandemic there was a gradual move to digital hailing systems rather than the age old tried and tested means of a taxi rank. Whilst a hail from within the hotel lobby might have saved concierge time and effort when demand for taxis was low, that method is now less successful given the high- demand and more efficient earning potential.

A digital hail will cost drivers usually upwards of 15% of their fares, plus there’s the cost of the payment processing to contend with if the passenger pays with a card.

Drivers are essentially being asked to give up around 20% of their metered rate at a time of high demand. The maths does not stack up.

Risk of cancellation

When demand is high, taxi drivers do not need to take risks. Trusting a pre-booked customer to either appear on time, or arrive at all, means the driver takes the risk of their turnover taking a dent. Essentially dead time for a no show.

Taxi drivers want to be efficient at their job. Hailing a taxi down when the passenger is not ready to leave the hotel, or worse still is in their room, means dead time and risk of a no show.

Sadly, there is also a growing trend of hotel door staff booking cabs via an app, but taking the first cab that appears in the meantime. The cab driver on the receiving end still running in to service the hotel is then told the passenger has already left and receives no cancellation fee and a lasting bitter experience.

Past experiences

This leads nicely on from the last point. If a taxi driver has been treated unfairly by a hotel in the past, why would anyone go out of their way and take the risk again unless they were hailed down outside the hotel?

For some cabbies even a flag down from door staff directly outside isn’t enough to warrant servicing the hotel on the back of previous experiences.

One cabbie said: “Back in my day (in London) you knew all the bent hotels. You knew if they were franticly trying to wave you down with passengers on the kerb, they were only going 50 or 60 yards.

“Anyone going to Gatwick, Luton or Heathrow they would call a car and take a back hander and give licensed taxi drivers the crumbs.

“I would drive straight past.”

Another cabbie, Gavin Briner, was however more positive and suggested that taxi drivers treat the change in fortunes as an opportunity. Gavin said: “The black cab industry is at a pinnacle moment. We are winning lots of work back and we need to stay like this so that the Kipper is a distant memory.

“These hotel customers are from all over the world. It’s great PR for the trade so why let them down when they want a Black Cab?

“Lots of customers use different modes of transport. Who cares about other costs and competition?

“No good being negative saying this one’s done this and this one’s done that, just take the job whatever it is when your lights on. Don’t give anyone an excuse to change from London’s finest form of transport.”

What is the solution?

The return of airport journeys at metered rates being offered to black cabs would see some trust renewed, but for some cabbies, years of bad experiences will be hard to shake quickly.

Having passengers ready to board the taxi will improve everyone’s experience, and making sure taxis booked are fulfilled and occupied with passengers, will go a long way to garner a more long-term positive experience for all.


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