WHEN Melbourne health sector worker Margaret Nash finally had an opportunity to take some leave for the first time in two years, she thought she would support a regional town in Victoria and chose Mildura as the destination for her much needed holiday.

Margaret flew into Mildura Airport on Monday morning of the previous week and found herself stranded upon arrival.

She needed transport to her accommodation and planned to catch a taxi into town.

That proved to be a difficulty because there weren’t any on the rank at the airport and so she rang the taxi phone number on the wall near the taxi stand outside the arrivals and then found herself on hold for 10 minutes.

“I was then informed by the person on the other end that I had to go and ask a staff member in the airport to ring for a cab,” Margaret said.

“I said why can’t you just send one for me? To which she replied “we don’t do that, you’ll have to go inside the airport and get a staff member to call you a cab”.

“But I’m on the phone to you now please book me a cab – the answer was no.”

Margaret was completely perplexed by this and went into the terminal and there wasn’t anyone there except for someone from the café who was closing up.

“I asked if there was anyone who could call me a taxi and they said there is phone on the wall over there,” Margaret said.

“This turned out to be the same number that I had called earlier and I found myself on hold again.

“Then the café attendant said they would try another taxi company and was able to get a taxi for me and after 15 minutes it picked me up.”

Margaret said the reason she didn’t book a taxi before she arrived into Mildura was because she would have been too early to check into her accommodation and so she thought she may as well stay at the airport until it was time to go into town.

However what she didn’t know is, getting a taxi to the airport can be difficult and it’s not uncommon for people to be stranded waiting for taxis – it’ an age-old problem that has been going on for years-something I have experienced myself on a number of occasions.

There used to be a shuttle bus service to the airport which would even take people to where they were staying and pick them up and take them to the airport.

That proved not to be viable and it disappeared years ago.

It is a problem that needs to be addressed now that Mildura is a major regional airport and as flight schedules get back to normal, the passenger numbers will increase and the need for reliable transport to the CBD will be paramount.

The Weekly asked Mildura Airport CEO Trevor Willock what measures can be taken, including the resumption of a bus service, to improve the transportation of arriving and departing passengers.

“The situation with the shortage of taxis has developed since COVID struck and shut down flights and then when flights did resume the schedules were limited and with lockdowns people weren’t using taxis in general and as a consequence a number of taxis in Mildura ceased to operate,” he said.

“This had compromised transport to and from the airport to some degree.

“There are not that many taxis around anymore because they haven’t been able to make a living out of it because no one was travelling then or now really.

“There are a third of the taxis driving around Mildura than there used to be.

“We would love to put a shuttle bus on, that’s always been in the planning, but unfortunately you wouldn’t do it when there are no passengers around with COVID.

“But we are looking at that option and are waiting for the right time.”