Enough taxis for airport?

Charleston International Airport is preparing to upgrade and remodel the terminal to facilitate the growing number of travelers that will pass through it.

The Charleston County Aviation Authority is considering two proposals to ensure there are enough cabs to serve travelers at Charleston International Airport.

After a spirited discussion by the airport board Thursday, the agency plans to meet with the airport’s taxi association before deciding whether to increase the number of permitted cabs or just require the 50 now permitted to take more fares. There is no timeline for the decision.

The review was triggered by what one board member called a “perfect storm” around 1 a.m. on June 24.

According to Aviation Authority Vice President Bill New, four delayed flights arrived around the same time as two regularly scheduled flights. Even though there were 19 cabs ready to take fares — more than double the eight required under the airport’s taxi policy — that still wasn’t enough to handle the rush.

Airport board Chairman Chip Limehouse received a complaint about it and brought it to the attention of airport staff and the board. Limehouse suggested eliminating the cap altogether, or at least raising it, a proposal that seemed to have the backing of some board members.

“We’re not in the business to make the taxis money,” he said.

Others, including brothers Teddie and Spencer Pryor, expressed concern for the permitted cab drivers’ livelihoods if the permitting system were opened up.

The taxi drivers aren’t the only airport regulars facing change. The skycaps are about to be out of work, according to the Rev. Timothy Simmons, owner of Charleston Skycap, who sought the board’s support Thursday.

Simmons said his skycaps have worked at the airport since it opened in 1985 and some worked at the old airport before that. Charleston Skycap has had contracts with Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, Simmons said, but the company just received word that those deals have been terminated.

Simmons said the airlines gave no reason, but he suspects it stems from a recent incident in which baggage containing a gun was improperly checked in and sent overseas. He maintained it was not his employee’s fault and asked the Aviation Authority for a letter supporting the company’s request for a stay of the contract termination to speak with the airlines.

State Rep. Wendell Gilliard and local representatives from the NAACP showed up to support the 16 skycaps.

“It comes out to total disrespect,” Gilliard said.

Limehouse directed New to arrange a meeting with the airlines to learn more about the decision to bring in a new skycap company.

The board did not announce a decision on a pending protest of the $150 million contract to redevelop the airport terminal. A ruling is imminent after a three-member panel heard arguments June 21 and said a decision would be made in 30 days.

Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 or kearney_brendan@twitter.com.