..as reported in USA Today
ORLANDO (AP) – Walt Disney World workers can no longer greet tourists on the arrival floor of the Orlando International Airport, a decision officials made after limo and taxi drivers complained it gave the theme park resort an unfair advantage.
The workers, part of Disney’s Magical Express program, which whisks visitors directly to the resort without having to wait for luggage, had been allowed to station themselves outside security checkpoints on the airport’s third-floor.
Taxi and limo drivers, who weren’t allowed on the third-floor and had to wait by luggage carousels one story below, had claimed Disney’s advantage had cut into their business. “We don’t let anybody else have greeters there,” airport board Chairman Jeffry Fuqua said. “Everybody needs to have a fair opportunity and equal playing field.”
The change was announced Wednesday after the airport’s attorney sent a letter to Disney’s attorney informing him that the greeters need to be removed by Oct. 31. The letter also clarified that Disney World guests who had not prearranged a ride on Magical Express would not be able to access the service once they arrived at the airport. The taxi and limo drivers claimed that Disney workers were picking up travelers who didn’t have an advanced booking in violation of Disney’s contract with the airport.
Disney spokesman Jacob DiPietre said the resort plans to discuss the changes with airport officials, but he would not comment on when the greeters would be moved or what effect that might have on the service.
“We evaluate and adjust our operations on an ongoing basis,” DiPietre said.
Earlier this month an attorney for the Greater Orlando Livery Association, a group of about 200 bus, van and luxury-car drivers, sent a letter to OIA Executive Director Bill Jennings demanding that the airport terminate Disney’s contract for the program.
Jennings has not responded to the letter, and Disney officials have said the company never violated any terms of its agreement with the airport.
Airport officials said they want to schedule a series of meetings with Disney over the next 60 days to lay out a framework for how Magical Express and any similar services that might be offered by other companies in the future will operate.