When is a bike a briefcase? When it goes in a taxi at the airport

By Mathew Dearnaley

Trevor Mallard.
Trevor Mallard.

Senior Labour MP Trevor Mallard had to pass off a packed-up bicycle as a briefcase to be allowed to carry it in a taxi from Auckland Airport.

He is furious an airport security official tried to stop his taxi driver from allowing the bike - which he strips down and packs into a hard case when flying - into the back seat of the cab.

He told the Weekend Herald the bike was too large to fit into the boots of most cabs, so he had carried it in back seats without being challenged at least 10 other times when catching taxis from the airport. But on Thursday, as he was trying to load in his bike, an airport official told him and the cabbie "that their rules didn't allow luggage to go in the same compartment as passengers".

Mr Mallard said the driver appeared to have been anxious about the intervention, possibly fearing difficulties gaining future access to the airport if he didn't comply. "While the discussion was happening, he certainly wasn't going to help load the thing in."

But the MP and former Cabinet minister was late for an appointment, so asked the airport official whether his bag would be allowed in the back seat if it happened to be a briefcase which he may need to use during his taxi trip.

"He said, I suppose so, and in the end I said, it's a briefcase - we'll just get going.

"He let me go, but it's just bureaucracy gone mad."

Airport spokesman Simon Lambourne said, after taking advice from other officials, that his company was simply monitoring a Transport Agency rule "in the interests of passenger safety".

"There's an NZTA [agency] rule that says taxis can't have unusual, oversized or heavy items in the passenger cabin," he said. But an agency official indicated that the rule simply gave taxi drivers the right to refuse to carry in or on their vehicles luggage that would endanger safe driving, could not be reasonably carried without causing damage, or was dirty or objectionable.

Told of that, Mr Lambourne said the airport company intended discussing the matter first thing next week with the Transport Agency and its traffic marshals "to get clarification about the rule".

In the meantime, it stood by the actions of the official who intervened in Mr Mallard's case.

"Auckland Airport wants every passenger to have a safe taxi journey to and from the airport and we support the traffic marshals raising luggage safety concerns they have with the drivers."

Mr Mallard said it was nonsense for the company to suggest the official was looking after his safety, as his bike was wedged in behind the front seats, making it more secure than if a seatbelt was used. "Of course drivers should be able to refuse unsafe or dirty stuff, but it's totally lacking in logic and sounds like someone who's got nothing better to do, trying to rationalise a stupid decision."

Mr Lambourne said the company was not trying to discourage passengers from sharing taxis.

- NZ Herald

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