The drivers complained that the fee has boosted their fares to a level that will discourage people from taking taxis. Many cabbies are also upset by a new requirement that they must charge a flat $20 to take people into Center City, though the head of the taxi drivers' association said his organization wasn't formally opposing the fee.
Association president James Walker said the drivers would continue their action until the $1.50 fee was lifted, or other demands were met.
Without cabs available, many travelers took SEPTA's train into 30th Street Station, or hopped shuttle vans.
"It's just another thing you don't need after a long flight," said one man as he climbed into a van.
Most of the day, the cabs stayed in their holding lot near the Alamo rental car area. But about 3:30 p.m. they began a noisy procession through the airport, blasting their horns as they passed through the "arrivals" area. Then, they headed out of the airport, crossed the Platt Bridge, and doubled back on Interstate 95 across the Girard Point Bridge.
The second cab was flying a large American flag on a wooden pole, and halfway across the bridge, the flag suddenly flew onto the highway.
Like a soldier in battle picking up a fallen flag, cab driver Muhamer Kuka - a former Yugoslavian - jammed on his brakes, jumped out and grabbed the flag. A few moments later he was speeding to the head of the procession.
"Without the flag, we can't go," said Kuka, who's been driving a cab for nine years. "We're in America. We're free."
When the long line of cabs came back to the airport, it headed through the ''departures" area. Normal traffic was delayed as the cabs crawled through, and some people, rushing to get to their planes, were angry.
"It's a hell of a way to get public support - making people miss their planes," said passenger Jim Chartrand, when he finally made it to the USAir terminal.
"We didn't want anybody missing their flights," said Walker, who heads the Brotherhood of Unified Taxi Drivers and Owners. "We don't want any enemies."
Walker complained that the $1.50 fee would make more people take the shuttle vans, which charge about $8 per person for a ride into Center City.
Several cab drivers broke the boycott.
"I have bills to pay, I have family," said Ralph Pena, as he picked up a passenger yesterday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the trouble on the rails began about 9:40 a.m. yesterday, when an electrified Amtrak train tangled the overhead electric lines near Perryville, Md.
That train was stopped on the track for more than an hour, and passengers had to be transferred to a train pulled by a diesel engine, according to Amtrak officials.
During the day, 18 northbound and southbound trains were delayed, 10 for more than an hour. The longest delay was nearly 2 1/2 hours, said Amtrak spokeswoman Sue Martin.