Phuket taxi meeting: 20% fare cut, but doesn’t address gouging

PHOTO: A meeting on Phuket taxi didn't seem to address the problem of price gouging. (via Wikimedia)

The Phuket Office of the Public Relations Department has tried to paint a win for a meeting regarding overcharging taxis in the Phuket Sandbox, though the resolutions seem unrelated to the problem. During the meeting, taxi drivers agreed to a 20% discount for all fares until the end of the Covid-19 pandemic but did not address the problem of complaints from passengers about price gouging and taxi rates have skyrocketed.

The Deputy-Director of the Department of Land Transport travelled to Phuket from Bangkok yesterday in order to conduct this meeting at Phuket Vocational College, which was attended by the titans of transportation for the area including the Phuket Vice Governor, the Chief of the Phuket Land Transport Office, representatives from local taxi companies and over Phuket Mai Khao Sakhu and Phuket Limousine and Business Services Cooperative.

The latter 2 companies have a concession from Airports of Thailand to operate taxi services at Phuket International Airport. They say they’ve been giving 20% off all fares since the beginning of the pandemic to help ease everyone’s financial pain, and they asked for everyone including the government to join in and help.

One discussion noticeable absent from reports about the meeting was that of taxis price-gouging customers and what to do about it. The Phuket Governor requested the investigatory meeting over criticism on taxi price gouging that he says is tarnishing Phuket’s reputation as the Phuket Sandbox tries to restart the tourism economy.

Taxi drivers in Phuket say they have been charging less for fares, citing a few examples. They say the standard fare from the airport to Kata 46 kilometres away is normally 1,000 baht and taxi drivers are now charging 800 baht only. Another example is the 38.9-kilometre drive from the airport to Patong, which taxi drivers say they are discounting the 800 baht fare to 640 baht.

The Phuket taxi drivers say that they will continue this pricing throughout the pandemic even though it may be below their operating cost, so they are actually losing money on the rides. They say these discounts don’t cover their costs of insurance, upkeep, gas, and concession to the airport.

Some of the statements at the meeting seemed to imply that taxi drivers are hoping for some relief from Airports of Thailand, perhaps a waiving of the fee taxis pay to enter and pick up customers from the airport. AoT earned about 7.7 billion baht in 2020, compared to 28.26 billion baht in 2017, so they may not be too eager to sacrifice any revenue.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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