Cabbies, Uber drivers rush for Changi Airport fare
Private hire cars getting better deal from Changi Airport fares? Cabbies say
The turf war between local cabbies and Uber drivers is heating up over fares at Changi Airport.
For UberX driver Steven Tang, the airport is where the money is.
Said the 53-year-old: "A third of my customers start their journey there and most of them are tourists. They are familiar with Uber because they have it in their countries."
Business has also been booming islandwide as more people are starting to use the ride-matching app, said Mr Tang, who joined Uber in March last year.
The app allows users to book private limousine services through their mobile phones.
And to make things sweeter for Uber drivers, the American company yesterday introduced a surcharge of $1.50 for each UberX and the more premium UberExec ride from Changi Airport.
There are no changes to UberTaxi, which match bookings to normal taxis rather than private cars.
Even with the surcharge, it claims to be cheaper than regular taxi rides from the airport, Uber said in an e-mail to its users last week.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) mandates that passengers from Changi Airport are charged $3 during non-peak periods and $5 during peak periods.
But this surcharge only applies to taxis, not private hire cars like UberX and UberExec.
Those booking a ride on UberX and UberExec do not have to wait in the airport's taxi queue either, Uber Technologies' Singapore general manager Yaniv Goder told The New Paper.
He said: "The nominal amount (of $1.50) is to ensure that driver partners are appropriately compensated for a minimum estimated waiting time at Changi Airport.
"This also helps ensure that more Ubers are available in close proximity to Changi Airport when passengers need to book a ride."
He declined to reveal how many Uber vehicles there are on the roads here.
At Changi Airport, Uber drivers wait in carparks at Terminal 2 and 3 until they receive a booking from a passenger.
They then drive to the pick-up point at the arriving terminal.
There is no need to join the hour-long taxi queue on Airport Boulevard as they are driving a private car.
"Nowadays, we only need to wait for about 15 minutes at the carpark before a booking comes in," said Mr Tang.
This has peeved several taxi drivers, who told TNP that their livelihood is at stake.
"This is very unfair," said 50-year-old taxi driver A. L. Tan in Mandarin when told of Uber's airport surcharge.
"Uber is stealing our rice bowl. They don't have to follow LTA pricing, yet they are providing the same service. Not only that, they don't even need to wait in line under the hot sun."
Another taxi driver, who spoke to TNP on condition of anonymity, said he is "outraged" at the current situation.
The cabby, who is in his 60s, said the airport route is getting unprofitable because of the queues and the fact that the airport is usually far from their last drop-off point.
Said the cabby: "The $5 surcharge makes it profitable and I don't want it reduced. But now it may not be competitive."
The National Taxi Association (NTA), which represents cabbies here, wants LTA to look into the matter.
"Based on feedback from taxi drivers, many of them hope LTA can ensure that competing services comply with existing regulations on private hire vehicle," said NTA president Gerald Chan.
He also hopes that Uber drivers receive vocational training and abide by LTA's "strict set of service rules", similar to what taxi drivers have to go through.
Added Mr Chan: "Perhaps, LTA can consider imposing similar requirements for drivers in these competing services that cater to the public."
But Mr Tang, who has nearly four years' experience as a personal chauffeur, disagrees that Uber services are encroaching into taxi drivers' territories.
Rather than price, he believes that customers prefer Uber because of convenience and service quality.
All UberX and UberExec drivers have to be employed by a company that already offers limousine services and have to be covered by commercial insurance to be an Uber partner, said its spokesman.
"Because of our limousine background, we know how to be safe drivers, how to provide good service and most of us can speak English," said Mr Tang, who drives a Toyota Wish.
He argued that taxi drivers have several ways to get passengers, while UberX and UberExec drivers are not allowed to pick up passengers who hail them and can only do so via the Uber app.
"Their concerns are unjustified. If taxi drivers are afraid of losing business to us, they should look at their own qualities," said Mr Tang.
Uber is stealing our rice bowl. They don't have to follow LTA pricing, yet they are providing the same service. Not only that, they don't even need to wait in line under the hot sun.
- Taxi driver A. L. Tan
HOW PRICES COMPARE
CHANGI AIRPORT TO CBD
Friday at 7pm
Uber: $20.50 (fare) + $1.50 (surcharge) = $22.00
Taxi: $21.80 (fare) + $5.00 (surcharge) = $26.80
CHANGI AIRPORT TO CBD
Monday at 8am
Uber: $20.80 (fare) + $1.50 (surcharge) = $22.30
Taxi: $22.10 (fare) + $3.00 (surcharge) = $25.10
CHANGI AIRPORT TO RESORTS WORLD SENTOSA
Wednesday at 9am
CLEMENTI TO CHANGI AIRPORT
Wednesday at 8am