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Taxi drivers at Sea-Tac say airport fees are unfair during COVID-19 times

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Teamsters Local 117
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Taxi driver Sasha Nazari says Sea-Tac Airport should be waiving rather than deferring airport fees.

Taxi drivers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are upset with the Port of Seattle. They say the port indicated in March that the airport fees they pay would be waived during the COVID-19 crisis. But now, the drivers have received a letter notifying them that fees are only being deferred and will have to be paid back in January.

On March 24, taxi drivers at Sea-Tac Airport were hopeful when they heard Port of Seattle Executive Director Stephen Metruck tell port commissioners during a meeting held via live video chat that he had a plan to help out taxis that service the airport.

“With your support I plan to grant a three-month waiver of fees charged for each trip from the airport,” Metruck said.

But that waiver is not happening. 

On May 1, drivers received notice that the fees are only being deferred and will have to be paid in full in January or through a payment plan with 1 percent interest, according to a copy of the notice reviewed by KNKX Public Radio.

The port says state and federal regulations prevent them from granting a waiver of fees. A spokesman says the executive director previously misspoke when he said airport fees would be waived. The port says fee deferrals are similar to what’s been granted to airport restaurants and retailers.

Driver Sasha Nazari says it makes no sense given how dire business is right now. He said his business is down 95 percent. The other day, he says, he waited seven hours with no customers.

“And then I got the customers going to the hotel in SeaTac, so I only made about $6,” he said.

He said $6 is the fee the airport charges for each ride he picks up, so he actually made no money. Lately, he said, most of his rides are to nearby airport hotels because the hotel shuttles are no longer running and few passengers are looking for rides to downtown hotels. He said it's been hard for him to support his family.

"We have to pay our mortgage. We have to pay our bills," he said. "I couldn't pay my garbage bill. I was late and they sent me a letter if you don't pay it we are going to discontinue and now they charge me for the late fee $18.08."

He and other drivers say, with a $192 million in bailout money, the port should be able to give them a break.