Airport urged to halt Disney shuttle
Posted September 13, 2005
A group of 200 bus, van and luxury-car drivers called on Orlando International Airport on Monday to put an end to Disney Magical Express, the free shuttle to and from Walt Disney World that the group says is killing its members' businesses.
In a letter to OIA Executive Director Bill Jennings, the Greater Orlando Livery Association asserts that the airport is violating its own rules with unfair business practices that benefit Disney World and threaten hundreds of car-for-hire businesses.
"I'm not sure how the aviation authority could not have seen this coming," said Larry Colleton, an attorney for the association. "[Magical Express] has had a direct and negative impact on small businesses that perform ground transportation at the airport."
Jennings did not return calls Monday for comment.
With Magical Express, introduced by Disney in May, tourists with Disney hotel reservations get free rides to and from the resort and the airport.
The service also transfers tourists' luggage from their airplanes and takes it directly to their hotel rooms.
About 5,000 people have used the service daily since it started, a Disney spokesman said.
One of the major points of contention for the livery association is where Magical Express employees are stationed inside the airport terminal. The "greeters," who wear big, white Mickey Mouse gloves, are on the third floor, where they are supposed to direct those with Magical Express reservations to the buses.
But the livery association says those employees are also soliciting Disney-bound tourists who did not reserve the service ahead of time, meaning they have far greater access to potential customers than other transportation services, which are banned from the third floor.
Face-to-face solicitation of travelers by car and bus services is strictly prohibited inside the terminal, Colleton said.
Mike McKenzie, a car-service owner and member of the livery association's board of directors, said the group had several people pose as travelers without Magical Express reservations who then approached the glove-wearing employees.
"We were solicited by the representatives on the third level," McKenzie said. "That's a violation right there."
A Disney spokesman said Magical Express does not violate any airport policies.
"Disney's Magical Express is offered to all of our hotel guests on a complimentary basis and has established a world-class standard of convenience for tourists," spokesman Jacob DiPietre said. "Our arrangement with the airport is not exclusive, and we have not violated any of the terms of our agreement."
Airport officials met twice with livery association members in July to address concerns about the Disney service, but a third meeting in August was canceled. Colleton, the attorney, asked Jennings to reschedule that meeting in the letter.
"There is great concern the subject contract will provide Disney with a monopoly," Colleton stated in his letter. "There will be less and less competition because more and more small businesses who make up GOLA [the livery association] will no longer exist."
McKenzie said four car-for-hire companies have gone out of business since Magical Express began service.
His business, Wheels to Wings, has cut back from six employees to three. "It was a tough summer," he said. "We basically had cars parked for a good part of the summer."