A battle between a local taxi service and the Roanoke Regional Airport is heating up.
Over the past year, Bennett Early, the owner of B. Early Cab Service, has been attending airport commission meetings. He says he wants to see changes so his company and others don't have to continue fighting the airport for access to travelers.
"Nobody likes to wait more than 20 minutes for a cab, I don't care who you are," Early says. "It's so nice to be able to come out, get your baggage, find your bag, and get home. Now, they're having to find the transportation desk and wait for a Yellow Cab to show up 20 or 30 minutes later because they only call one company: theirs."
Early insists the airport gives Yellow Cab an unfair advantage, because the Roberts family, who owns the Roanoke Airport Transportation Service, also owns Yellow Cab Services of Roanoke, Inc.
Jacqueline Shuck, the executive director of the Airport Commission, denies that Yellow Cab gets preferential treatment. She says over the past several months they've been working to figure out a new plan, detailing what services will be offered at the airport and where to house them.
"Our big thing is to make sure we can accommodate and have ways for people who land here to get to their next destination," Shuck says. "That's what we have to evaluate."
One of the big issues seems to be space, especially with loading and unloading parking in front of the airport. It's something both Early and airport officials agree there's not enough of.
Early hopes getting a cart inside the terminal could give his company the same opportunities that he believes Yellow Cab is getting.
"If we can see the need to have every rental car company represented in the airport," he says, "why can we not have every licensed cab company that's authorized to do business in Roanoke City represented in the airport?"
That's a question that will have to be answered by the airport commission. Until a plan is finalized, Shuck says they don't want to make any big changes, such as moving these taxi services inside, just yet.
"The last thing I want to do is put people in there and then toss them out within a matter of months," Shuck says.
She says she expects to have the entire issue resolved within a year. Until then, Early says he will continue fighting to give his business a fair chance.