PHUKET TOWN: Fifteen drivers from the new metered taxi company Natong Phuket Co Ltd (NPC) gathered at Provincial Hall this morning to lodge a complaint with Governor CEO Pongpayome Vasaputi after being refused entry to Phuket International Airport (PIA). NPC’s Managing Director Adul Lakman and 10 drivers spent an hour discussing the issue with the Governor and PIA Director Lt Cdr Boonchart Prompoon. K. Adul said, “Airport security officers refuse to let NPC drivers in because Phuket Limousine & Business Service Cooperative Ltd [PBC] has the concession to operate at the airport. “PBC doesn’t want us at the airport because metered taxis are much cheaper than limousines. A metered taxi fare from the airport to Phuket Town costs no more than 150 baht, but a limousine costs 360 baht, or as much as 500 baht if the passenger uses the VIP service,” he said. Cdr Boonchart explained, “The problem is that the PBC has the concession at the airport, which means it is the only company allowed to operate or have a stand at the airport.” He also pointed out that the former “black taxi” drivers who are now shareholders in NPC had operated at the airport for the past eight years without a concession. K. Adul explained the NPC had been formed and had bought 15 new metered taxis after the governor ordered a crackdown on black taxi operators at the airport. The crackdown came after a PBC driver was beaten to death by a black taxi driver, which prompted a 300-strong mob at Provincial Hall the next day. The NPC is now under financial strain, K. Adul explained, because, after three months of being denied access to the airport, it cannot afford to pay loan instalments on the 2.25 million baht it borrowed to buy the new cabs. Governor Pongpayome suggested that the airport allow metered taxis to have a sign at the airport so that customers had the option of calling a taxi company, which would in turn radio a driver waiting at a taxi rank just outside the airport. NPC drivers agreed, but Cdr Boonchart argued that the proposition needed to be discussed with PBC first. Negotiations were still underway today. In October, the island’s first metered taxi company, Phuket Taxi Meter Service Ltd, was also denied space at the airport.
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