Unlicensed taxis a prevalent problem at Pearson airport, police say
A woman flying home after a week away in Orlando narrowly escaped what could have been a dangerous situation with an unlicensed taxi last month in an incident Peel Regional Police say is rather common.
Megan Schroeder took a late flight on March 18th after a March Break vacation, arriving at Pearson International Airport around midnight and planned to take a taxi home.
“As I was going through the first set of double doors to where the taxis were, a man approached me. He was wearing a suit and looked pretty put together. I thought he must be a limo driver of some sort,” she told CTV News Toronto. “He asked me if I needed a taxi.”
The man led Schroeder upstairs to departures and said he was a dispatcher. He provided Schroeder with a reasonable quote for a taxi ride to her area.
“We waited for a little bit and I saw a car pull up. It looked like one of the limos, but I looked for the airport taxi license plate and I didn’t see one there. That was when I got a little suspicious,” Schroeder said. “My senses were telling me I had to leave, but I didn’t know how.”
Just as she was about the get in the car, a police officer pulled up behind the vehicle. He told Schroeder the vehicle she was about to enter was an illegal taxi and there was a good chance they would try to steal her belongings.
Schroeder almost engaged in a deal with someone police describe as a possible “scooper” – a person who comes into an airport and attempts to provide transportation in exchange for money without proper authorization. These drivers are not licensed taxi drivers and often, don’t have the proper taxi insurance in place.
At Pearson, only licensed Pearson taxis and airport limos are allowed to pick up fares, according to the airport’s website.
Peel Regional Police said the issue of unlicensed taxis is something officers deal with on a daily basis, and that the current penalties in place are not sufficient to deter these “scoopers” from coming back to the airport.
Under the Highway Traffic Act, a driver that picks up a passenger for compensation without authority can be fined $365.
Const. Bally Saini told CTV News Toronto that travellers should not accept transportation services from anyone within the airport. They should follow the signs and go straight to the designated pick up areas.
“The big thing is that when you are getting into an unlicensed taxi you are putting yourself at risk,” she said. “If you get into an accident, you may incur your own medical charges and personal injury charges. If that person drives away with your luggage you don’t have any information.”
Saini said that Peel Police have a kiosk at both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 of Pearson Airport and that officers are always present to assist a traveller if they are in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.
As for Schroeder, she said she learned a lot from the incident and wanted to come forward to warn other travellers of the prevalence of unlicensed taxis.
“I’ve learned to make your way out of both double doors before you agree to get in to any taxi,” she said. “If you want to take an airport limo, those things can be arranged ahead of time.”