Airport happy to discuss van fees
Christchurch Airport is willing to talk with hotels over the hated high charges it places on visits by courtesy vehicles.
Taxi operators, hoteliers and a carparking provider have complained about high pickup costs charged by the city's airport.
Taxis and courtesy vehicles face different fee structures and have had to pay new charges introduced by the airport early in 2011 and early 2013.
Graeme Harris, owner of Airpark Canterbury, said the airport risked losing its international reputation if it continued to charge "excessive public transport access prices".
Harris said his overnight carparking-park and ride operation, launched in December 2012, was yet to reach "break even" partly as a result of the high cost of doing business with the airport.
He had to pay a set $10 fee per pickup of customers from the airport by the van, rather than the $2 per pickup he budgeted for when setting up the park and ride company before charges were hiked.
Harris said he believed the fee structure was inequitable and stacked against smaller operators.
"It costs me $10 per pickup for my van which has a maximum capacity of 10 passengers. In comparison a bus which can carry up to 60 travellers pays only $21," he said.
One problem was that costs were inevitably passed on to customers, often tourists, who got the impression Christchurch was expensive to visit.
Airport chief commercial officer Blair Forgie defended the charges, saying Airpark Canterbury was one of a number of off-airport parking operators, including the airport's own Craddocks, and all paid the same access fee.
The charges partly reflected the work the airport did on growing and developing tourism in the South Island, which benefited businesses like Airpark.
The Tourism Industry Association's Canterbury hotels sector chairman and general manager of The George hotel, Bruce Garrett, said he had recently talked to new airport boss Malcolm Johns, who was now willing to talk to hotel operators about the courtesy van charges.
Johns has taken on the top executive role at Christchurch Airport following the departure of Jim Boult at the end of last year.
Garrett said there had been concerns about the "significant increase" in courtesy vehicle charges imposed by the airport in early 2013 which replaced an annual fee with the $10 per pickup charge.
"I know the new CEO at the airport is looking into the matter and is discussing it further in terms with our members, the ones who are directly affected because they operate courtesy shuttles to the airport." Garrett said.
Forgie said the airport planned to talk to courtesy vehicle operators over the next month.
Sue Jackman, an executive committee member of the NZ Taxi Federation and with First Direct taxis, said a "variable" access charge for taxis ranging from $5-$6 up to $10 a visit had been in place since February 2010.
Cabs wanting to sit on the airport rank and wait for passengers also had to pay an annual licence in the order of $5000 on top of the pickup charge.
Generally, Christchurch taxi operators felt the fees were "relatively high" and some firms had been lobbying against the charges.
There was talk of a new drop off fee of about $7 per visit and also a pickup fee of $7, she said.
Forgie confirmed a new airport fee structure for taxis would come in from July 1. The airport had been in talks with taxi operators about potential changes.
"One of the options we are considering is doing away with the [annual] licence fee and going towards an access fee only," Forgie said.