No taxi services at airports in Paris as drivers go on strike

Police officers stand on the side of the road as taxi drivers demonstrate in their taxis, on Feb 10, 2014, near the Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, outside Paris, to protest against competition from tourist transport vehicles. Taxi services out of
Police officers stand on the side of the road as taxi drivers demonstrate in their taxis, on Feb 10, 2014, near the Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport, outside Paris, to protest against competition from tourist transport vehicles. Taxi services out of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris were at a virtual standstill on Monday, Feb 10, 2014, as drivers went on strike over competition from rival mini-cabs. -- PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - Taxi services out of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris were at a virtual standstill on Monday as drivers went on strike over competition from rival mini-cabs.

For the second time in less than a month, there were huge traffic jams on the outskirts of the French capital as convoys of hundreds of taxis made their way at snail pace towards a demonstration in the city centre.

An airport spokesman at Roissy said no taxis were picking up travellers from France's main hub for international flights while ranks at Orly, to the south of the city, were blockaded by over 100 cars belonging to drivers involved in the strike.

By mid-day there had been no reports of the sort of violent attacks on minicabs which marred a similar day of protest last month amid signs that drivers of the rival cars had decided to stay away from the airports.

Minicabs, known in France as tourist vehicles with chauffeur (VTCs), were only authorised in 2009 as an attempt to address chronic shortfalls in the availability of taxis, particularly in Paris, the most visited city in the world.

VTCs differ from 'official' taxis in that they don't have luminous signs on their roofs, have to be booked in advance and do not have the right to pick up passengers who hail them in the street.

Taxi drivers say the VTCs are increasingly flouting the rules and stealing their business without having to respect the costly regulations imposed on taxis.

"It is as if you had two boxers in a ring and one of them had both hands tied behind his back," said Mr Karim Lalouani, one of the protesting drivers.

Mr Philippe Morival, a Parisian taxi driver for 30 years, added: "I paid 235,000 euros (S$406,996) for my licence and I have to respect a whole series of strict rules. Mini-cabs are accountable to no one."

France's Socialist government responded to the taxi drivers' complaints in December by issuing a decree which restricted mini-cabs from picking up passengers within 15 minutes of a reservation being made.

The measure, designed to discourage speculative touting for business, was suspended last week by the Council of State pending a ruling on whether it is in the public interest.