The Monaco Grand Prix and the Cannes Film Festival are a huge draw into the region. And that means thousands arriving at Nice Airport enthusiastically awaiting the big events. Thoughts would normally wander to planning which party, which show stopping celebrity event, the fine dining and champagne and of course the films showing in Cannes and the Grand Prix race itself. Except first things first – a taxi or limo to your hotel, apartment and Villa. And it is in exactly this period that first the taxis and then the tourist-limo-vehicle drivers have chosen to grind everything to a halt.
The taxis and the limos are in intense competition with each other and this spills over into serious complaints that they want addressed – not the least of which was when, according to reports, a woman taxi driver was knocked down. The injured driver was taken to hospital, (fortunately no bones broken apparently) after she was reportedly hit by a rival working for a ride-hailing service.
And it is reported that the situation was exacerbated by controls by the consumer watchdog at Nice International Airport to which the taxi drivers responded by blocking the access to both terminals, allowing only employees of the airport access. According to the reports the taxi drivers called for action following an argument between one of the consumer agents and a taxi driver. Controls at the time were being carried out on taxi drivers and not on tourism vehicle drivers.
It has been a nightmare for the airport travellers on two days including film moguls on their way to Cannes. The first day – where in the world had the taxis gone that the passengers were desperate to take? And why the blocks? The second day, from Wednesday early afternoon onwards – many limos also made themselves scarce – in the region of 70 tourist limo vehicles missing with a potential nightmare of 200 refusing to operate. It’s a signal by the drivers to the authorities to come to the table and talk.
This is a test of the Prefect of Alpes Maritimes who faces this acute pressure early in her tenure. A typical scene at the airport involves taxis lining up in front of the private hire cars and things from time to time can get out of hand.
And the message from the Taxi drivers and the Limo drivers is not at all subtle. They want serious face to face talks with the authorities without delay – or else. And the “or else” means the very real threat of restricting services to travellers coming to see the big events , and many of them are arriving imminently for the Grand Prix.
There are reports that the Prefect has promised to meet. Whenever tempers are flaring like this, trust is at a low level. So reported “promises to meet” are met with scepticism by some and a challenge by others to turn promises into reality very quickly.
And it is on the eve of the Grand Prix that the drivers expect more clarity about how serious the Prefect is – and about engaging with them face to face to discuss their grievances.