Taxi! Pandemic pumps the brakes on cab driver supply

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Air travel rates have taken flight at ILM. More people are traveling now that restrictions have loosened and a holiday weekend is approaching. But for some, the pandemic is still causing problems.

“I think what we’re seeing probably is back to a normal number of passengers that we used to experience before the pandemic that are looking for cabs,” said ILM’s deputy director, Gary Broughton. “And the problem of course, as we’ve discussed is the number of cabs available.”

Even before the pandemic, ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft took a big bite out of the taxi industry, undercutting prices and having more drivers available.

“When it’s no demand, yeah, they kill us as taxi cabs because low prices,” All About Taxi’s Kevin Aikman explained.

It’s run some cab businesses off the road and out of business.

“Well pre-pandemic we had capped our number of cabs we permitted at 40,” Broughton said. “From what I’m told, now we have around 10.”

With the pandemic came a driver shortage, hiking up ride share prices, and causing some to turn back to taxis.

A&B Transportation’s Gerald Sumpter, explained, “by going to Uber and Lyft without keeping the taxi businesses going. They took the cabs out of business. And now the rides are double up here and they want us to be back around, and there’s not enough of us.”

And with the demand going up, local taxis are having trouble keeping up. One owner said he’s worked 20 hour days with only one other employee.

Sumpter says he’s also had to work long hours.

“It’s been impossible. Because they’ll come off the thing and realize. Right now you’ve got three cabs in line. There used to be 14.”

For now ILM and local cab companies recommend using the ground travel portion of the airport’s website to book taxis in advance.

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