http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news...0,564837.story?coll=orl-news-growth-headlines Airport to boot Disney greeters Taxis, other drivers said deal was unfair Beth Kassab | Sentinel Staff Writer Posted September 22, 2005 Disney's Magical Express, the free service that shuttles Disney tourists and their baggage to and from Orlando International Airport, will no longer be able to lure in travelers with greeters on the airport's third level. The employees, who wear oversized Mickey Mouse gloves, meet passengers as they enter the main airport terminal. Their location has been a source of friction for taxi, luxury car and rental-car services, which say Disney's exclusive access to the third level has significantly cut into their businesses. "We don't let anybody else have greeters there," said airport board Chairman Jeffry Fuqua. "Everybody needs to have a fair opportunity and equal playing field." The change came about Wednesday after the airport's attorney sent a letter to Disney's attorney informing him that the greeters need to be removed by Oct. 31. The letter also clarified that Walt Disney World guests who had not pre-arranged a ride on Magical Express would not be able to access the service once they arrived at the airport. Disney spokesman Jacob DiPietre said Disney plans to discuss the changes with airport officials, but he would not comment on when the greeters would be moved or what effect that might have on the service. "We evaluate and adjust our operations on an ongoing basis," DiPietre said. Since Disney began Magical Express as a pilot project in May, other providers of transportation at the airport have cried foul, saying the service and Disney's special access have dramatically hurt their businesses. Disney has said about 5,000 people ride Magical Express every day -- a number far above what the airport expected when it agreed to the 18-month trial run last year. "The response is considerably greater than we anticipated," Fuqua said. Earlier this month an attorney for the Greater Orlando Livery Association, a group of about 200 bus, van and luxury-car drivers, sent a letter to OIA Executive Director Bill Jennings demanding that the airport terminate Disney's contract for the program. Larry Colleton, the attorney for the association, said Disney's greeters were soliciting passengers who had not already signed up for Magical Express, which is against the airport's solicitation rules. Jennings had not responded to Colleton's letter and did not alert him about the changes for greeters. "It's kind of like too little, too late," Colleton said. "We still stand by our position that this contract should be terminated. How is Disney being held accountable for its material breach of the contract?" Disney has said it never violated any terms of its agreement with the airport. Airport officials said they want to schedule a series of meetings with Disney over the next 60 days to lay out a framework for how Magical Express and any similar services that might be offered by other companies in the future will operate. Of major concern is whether the pilot program is causing the airport to lose money because its other concessionaires may no longer pay as much in airport fees. Disney has spent $21 million on the program since May, about $2 million of that going to the airport through fees or improvements, according to documents from a private presentation Disney made to airport officials last month. Fuqua said one option might be to require Magical Express to operate out of both the A and B sides of the terminal like most concessionaires such as rental-car companies and other shuttle services. Currently Magical Express only operates out of the A terminal, and a change would significantly decrease the program's efficiency and result in an estimated increase of $15 million a year in Disney's operating costs, according to documents prepared by the company. But Fuqua said other providers of transportation are required to operate on both sides of the airport despite the increased expenses and decreased efficiency. "It costs more money for Hertz and the others to operate that way," Fuqua said. "We can't set our airport up to operate to Disney's pleasure."