MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Muslim cab drivers at Minnesota's biggest airport will face new penalties including a two-year revocation of their taxi permits if they refuse to give rides to travelers carrying liquor or accompanied by dogs, the board overseeing operations ruled Monday.
The Metropolitan Airports Commission, responding to complaints about the liquor issue, voted unanimously to impose the new penalties beginning in May.
A large number of taxi drivers in the area of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are Muslim Somali immigrants. Many say they feel the faith's ban on alcohol consumption includes transporting anyone carrying it.
Some also have refused to transport dogs, both pets and guide dogs, saying they are unclean.
The new rules cover any driver who refuses a ride for unwarranted reasons, including those who refuse to take short-haul passengers in favor of more lucrative longer trips. They can still refuse fares for certain reasons, including threats to their safety.
Under the new regulations a first offense would result in a 30-day cab license suspension and a second in a two-year taxi license revocation.
The current penalty only requires that cab drivers who refuse a fare to go back to the end of the taxi queue, costing them time and money.
Since January 2002, the commission said in announcing the new rules, there have been about 4,800 instances where cab drivers refused to pick up people with alcohol in their possession. Travelers arriving from international destinations often bring back duty-free alcoholic beverages many in easily identifiable packages.