PHUKET: Within two weeks meter taxis will have a desk inside the arrivals hall of Phuket International Airport, and three cabs at a time will be allowed to park right outside arrivals – the sacred territory of the island’s airport limousines.
The decision was made by Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura after a meeting yesterday to discuss the simmering dispute between meter taxis and airport limousine groups.
Also at the meeting were Airport Director Sq/Ldr Pornchai Eua-aree, Phuket Provincial Police Commander Pol Maj Gen Decha Budnampeth, Theerayuth Prasertphol of the Phuket Province Transportation Office (PPTO), and representatives of Phuket’s sole meter taxi association.
Limousine groups were invited to send representatives to the meeting, but did not.
Manod Chusak, manager of the Airport Limousine and Business Service Co-operative, said that the drivers did not attend because an agreement had already been struck between them and meter taxi drivers that the meter taxis could have a desk in the car park, nearer to the terminal than the current one.
He added that he did not understand, in light of this deal, why the taxi drivers’ representatives went to the meeting.
K. Manod said that he would relay the decision of the Governor to his members, and it would be up to them to decide what action was appropriate.
K. Teerayuth pointed out that the deal K. Manod referred to was informal only – it did not have the seal of approval of the airport management, which owns the car park.
He added, “Gov Udomsak is aware that his decision will not make the airport limousine operators happy, and that they are likely to stage another protest.” The protest could come within days, he added.
Gov Udomsak said that he was not particularly worried about the possibility of a protest, saying that his main concern was that tourists and other airline passengers should have good choices of transportation in Phuket.
K. Teerayuth added, “We know that when limousine drivers don’t like something they always protest. Many times we have given in to them because we did not want them to stage a big protest, which could affect tourism.”
The Governor’s decision is still subject to the approval of the Airports Authority of Thailand (AAT) in Bangkok, and another meeting will be held once the AAT has responded, but the Governor appeared confident of receiving approval.
Airport Director Sq/Ldr Pornchai said that once approval was forthcoming he would cut by half the 995,794-baht monthly concession fee levied on airport limousines.
K. Teerayuth said, “We believe that, within two weeks, the meter taxis will be able to set up a counter inside the terminal and passengers will then have more choices.”
He added that, subject to AAT approval, the new airport buses operated by Phuket Mahanakorn Co would also be allowed to stop outside the terminal for a limited period to load passengers.
Suwan Tamchoo, President of the Phuket Private Meter Taxi Association, told the Gazette that he is just waiting for the go-ahead to set up the desk in arrivals. He said he felt the Governor’s decision was fair, because the limousine group would also receive the benefit of their concession fee being halved.
He added that he could not understand why the limousine drivers’ representatives believed some kind of deal had been struck. “We cannot just move our desk closer to the terminal. That has to be a decision of the airport management. No deal was struck – we just discussed the idea.”
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