NEW ORLEANS -- Cab drivers will be in even greater demand the weekend of the Super Bowl. But those Kenner cab drivers who have traditionally serviced the airport say they are having a hard time getting the new equipment required to continue working there.
The cabbies say they have ordered the equipment through an out-of-state service provider, but are waiting for it to come in to have it installed.
New Orleans city leaders said Wednesday that they've issued more than 830 temporary and permanent decals to cabbies from all over the region to allow them to pick up fares at Armstrong airport and bring them into the city.
But many of the Kenner cab drivers are frustrated because they say the city keeps changing the rules on how to get a decal.
“If you don't have the equipment, you cannot work,” said Smith Fontain.
New Orleans allows cab drivers without decals to take passengers to surrounding communities, including Metairie and Kenner, but not into the city.
It has drivers like Fontain frustrated.
“This is the credit card machine that we have. That's a contract for five years. We have [it] and we gotta break the contract to put something else in the car,” he said about New Orleans’ requirement to use one of a handful of approved credit card service providers.
The city’s new regulations require credit card machines to be installed in the back seat of the cab so that passengers can run them themselves.
The Kenner cab drivers say they are working to get the upgraded equipment, but the problem right now is the rush to get it done in time to work during the Super Bowl surge.
“We should have known it was coming, but at the same time, you've gotta give people time,” Fontain said.
Kenner City Council Member Kent Denapolis said the city is frequently changing the requirements to get a temporary decal to service the airport while the equipment is on order.
“I have an email from the city saying all we want is a signed contract and an installation date. Now they're doing that. They changed the rules on Friday saying it has to be verified,” Denapolis said.
According to Denapolis, cab drivers are having a difficult time providing the paperwork because most are planning to lease the equipment from an out-of-state company by signing a service contract with them.
“They can't lease all of it,” said New Orleans Deputy Mayor for Operations Michelle Thomas, “Some of it has to be purchased. But as long as they prove that those transactions have taken place, and that they have a fully executed contract, not just signed by them, but by those with whom they're doing business, then those will be considered.”
A long line of cabs waiting in the airport’s Cell Phone Lot Wednesday showed another problem cabbies are having with the process. Some of them said Wednesday that have been waiting in line for hours, even days, just to get their decals.
“I was out here for three hours yesterday and not a single cab operator was processed to get a decal to be on the airport,” Denapolis said.
“Unfortunately, many of the operators waited until the week before the Super Bowl to begin the process. And the staff at the airport is moving as quickly as they can to process the requests for decals as they can,” Thomas said.
Denapolis argues it should be the city's responsibility to verify the contracts with the credit card providers not the cab drivers. But Thomas said they're simply looking for a proof of purchase and a contract signed and executed by both parties.