Shortage of taxis leaves long lines of frustrated residents, tourists at Louis Armstrong International

The taxi driver drought has seen nearly 1,000 drivers in New Orleans quit since the start of the pandemic, according to one taxi company.
Published: Apr. 8, 2022 at 7:03 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - When Desiree Drake’s flight back to New Orleans from Las Vegas landed Thursday evening, she thought the most stressful part of the travel day was behind her. That is, until she walked outside.

“We were struck with probably 300 people standing outside in line for a taxi,” Drake said. “There were others standing in line trying to get Ubers and Lyfts.”

Drake’s flight landed at Louis Armstrong International Airport around 11 p.m. Thursday. She and her husband parked their car nearby, at a friend’s place in Metairie. From there, they would need to travel home to Mandeville.

They only needed to travel around 2.5 miles to their friend’s.

“I looked at the taxi line and I could tell there were just a few lining up,” she said. “I thought, ‘This could go on until three o’clock in the morning, at least. What are we gonna do?’”

A small number of taxis for hundreds of people, and the opportunities to get a ride through Uber or Lyft weren’t plentiful either.

Luckily, Drake and her husband were persistent, clicking the Uber app repeatedly until they got one of the only drivers available.

“We lucked out, we got somebody,” Drake said. “It was surge pricing, it was about 80 dollars to go two and a half miles, but we took it. We were just thrilled.”

Drake said she felt bad for the tourists, especially the elderly people who relied on taxi services.

“We feel sorry for the passengers that we were listening to the conversations of on the flight. They were so excited to get to New Orleans. They were talking about, ‘We want to go get a cocktail, we want to get a po’boy.’ They were just excited to start their trips,” she said. “And this is what they were met with.”

A major shortage of taxi drivers is frustrating potential passengers citywide. It’s nothing new, but one taxi company said they’re at critically low levels.

Whereas once, before the Coronavirus pandemic, around 1,600 taxi drivers could be found on the streets of the New Orleans metro, only around 700 drivers remain in Orleans and around 125 remain in Jefferson Parish, according to the taxi company owner.

He blames overregulation on taxis, compared to Ubers and Lyfts.

According to an airport spokesperson, the number of taxi drivers with decals allowing them to pick up and drop off airport customers is 406, down from a pre-pandemic total of 877.

“The Uber driver on the way out showed us the parking lot where taxis usually sit or Ubers, and he said, ‘Look, there’s nobody there. There’s no one to pick these people up,’” Drake said.

“I just thought, these poor people. This is the first impression they’re getting of the city. What a shame.”

FOX 8 reached out to Armstrong International for details, and the following response was provided:

“The Louis Armstrong International Airport is aware that there were extended wait times for taxis and limited rideshare availability yesterday in the 11 p.m. – 2 a.m. timeframe. Due to the arrival of multiple delayed flights during a short timeframe, a higher than normal demand was placed on the taxis and rideshare providers.

Also, the Airport has observed that during these unusual times, rideshare providers can surge prices and taxis have a fixed fee that cannot fluctuate with demand, more passengers shift to the taxi line rather than pay the surge prices thus creating longer wait times and lines for taxis.

The taxi and rideshare industries appear to be, like many other industries across the country, experiencing a shortage of workers as we begin to emerge from the height of COVID-19. There are currently 406 taxi drivers with decals allowing them to operate at the airport compared to the 877 decaled taxis in 2019 before COVID-19.

As passenger activity continues to steadily recover at the Airport, we will continue to work with our transportation providers and hospitality industry partners to make them aware of the increased demand—especially during peak periods—so they can work to provide convenient options to travelers.”

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