Taxi boss fails to get cabs into airport

PHUKET: A metered taxi company has been denied space to operate at Phuket International Airport despite repeated applications and high-level discussions. Today the Phuket Land Transportation Office Committee held a meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall with involved parties including Governor CEO Pongpayome Vasaputi; Lt Cdr Boonchart Prompoon, Director of Phuket International Airport (PIA); Weera Kruepanich, representative of Phuket Limousine & Business Services Cooperative Ltd (PBC); and Tawatchai Meeniam, Managing Director of Phuket Taxi Meter Service Ltd. K. Tawatchai told the meeting that his company had done everything legally required to seek permission for a concession stand at the airport similar to that of PBC. But the company’s submission was rejected and another three-year concession granted to PBC – which also brought protests from another limousine company, Tour Royale. K. Tawatchai said the Airports Authority of Thailand (AAT) in Bangkok had given approval for the stand but PIA permission was also necessary. Cdr Boonchart told the meeting that the PBC had increased its number of cars to 150. Before Tour Royale’s concession was canceled by the PIA earlier this year, PBC operated 85 cars while Tour Royale had 65. (Airport regulations specify that there should be sufficient numbers to meet customers’ needs.) The PBC now pays the PIA about 900,000 baht a month in fees. Metered taxis are considered to be “public cars”, and therefore pay no fees, but are only allowed to drop customers off, not to pick up fares. Lt Cdr Boonchart said, “We have done research that shows more than 80% of customers are satisfied with the existing service.” K. Tawatchai said 50% of bookings for the metered taxis were for travel to the airport “and we have to run empty cars back. It’s strange that we have to operate like this.” Governor Pongpayome suggested that PBC change from limousines to metered taxis so it does not have to pay the PIA, arguing that there are currently not enough choices for customers. A ride to the airport in a metered taxi is approximately half the cost of a limousine. K. Tawatchai said he plans to continue his fight.

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