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Phuket airport's handling of public transport draws heavy criticism

Phuket Taxis: AoT Blamed for High Fares, Bad Service

Friday, February 5, 2010
AIRPORTS of Thailand, which manages Phuket airport, was heavily criticised at a meeting yesterday for imposing high charges yet providing poor service that made taxi fares costly and turned off tourists.

All of the other participants accused AoT of charging excessively high rent, of manipulating numbers of taxis to suit themselves, and of a greedy approach.

Details of the deals done involving airport taxis and limousines were revealed for the first time at a gathering of about 30 representatives of various organisations at the airport.

''Where did this problem come from in the first place?'' asked the vice president of the Phuket Tourist Association, Sarayuth Mallam.

''I don't want to say it, but I have to. The problem originates with AoT. They are very selfish and thinking about their income first.''

He added that the director of AoT in Phuket could not make any decisions. All decisions came from Bangkok, he said.

While permission has not yet been given for 30 additional taxi vehicles to be used at Phuket airport, the vehicles had been purchased and are already in use.

San Jalernjit, the manager of Mai Khao Sakoo, one of three taxi companies at the airport, said: ''I have already bought 30 vehicles and I've sold 20 licenses to local people for 300,000 baht each.''

More than 100 airport taxis surrounded the island's administrative headquarters at Provinicial Hall in Phuket City earlier this year in a protest about the extra vehicles.

That protest led Phuket Governor Wichai Praisa-ngob to look more closely at the whole airport taxi structure.

Yesterday's meeting brought together the key people, including senior department representatives from Bangkok.

Khun Sarayuth told them that tourists were constantly complaining about having to change vehicles outside the airport to accommodate illegal arrangements, or about being harassed for extra commissions.

When asked how he justified adding another 30 vehicles to taxi services at the airport, the Phuket AoT general manager, Prathuang Sornkhom, said: ''I will get back to you on that in seven days.''

Nobody could explain why 90 of the taxis operated by Airport Limousine and Business Services Cooperative were paying rent for space at the airport of 5378 baht a month each while the other, newer 60 vehicles were paying 16,420 baht a month.

Governor Wichai said taxi drivers in Bangkok only paid 50 baht per pickup at Suvarnabhumi Airport. ''Can AoT drop the cost in Phuket?'' he asked.

The Chairman of the Standing Committee on Tourism of the Senate, Tunyaratt Achariyachai, said drivers had to pay for the cars, and pay rent to the AoT.

''I would like AoT to consider the cost of its rents again,'' she said. ''Business needs to operate with justice. AoT makes about one billion baht a year from Phuket.

''You pay back to the local people about 10 million baht. It means nothing.''

She made the point that queues to enter Phuket airport were often far too long because AoT provided just one scanner.

''Inside, it's like a shopping mall,'' she said. ''There is not even enough space for tourists to sit while they wait.''

Khun Sarayuth told the meeting how he'd almost missed a flight in one long queue and how upmarket visitors who experienced the poor conditions often did not return and ended up holidaying in rival destinations.

Governor Wichai said: ''AoT gives so little back. The airport is a special area, for you to make money, yet when you use my roads, you never pay to help repair them.

''Taxis drive very fast because they have to rush there and back to try to pay the cost of your high rents. Even I have to give way to the airport limousines, they drive so fast.''

Why the taxis hadn't changed from petrol to gas was also a mystery, the Governor said.

Supot Sublom, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport, and Keacha Saksomboon, chairman of the Standing Committee of Transport of the Senate, were also at the meeting.

Khun Keacha said he would organise a follow-up meeting with the General Manager of Suvarnabhumi airport, Seriat Prasutanond, in Bangkok.

Concern about Phuket's high-cost transport system is mounting amid reports that 4000 illegal taxis operate around the island and the village zoning of tuk-tuks has led to fares that are 10 times those of Bangkok.

Metred tuk-tuks are likely to be trialled soon as demand increases for an island-wide, low cost bus service.
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Comments

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The fact fingers are being pointed and organisations are being named is the first step in addressing this issue. A long way to go yet but well done to Khun Sarayuth and all so far.

Posted by Duncan on February 5, 2010 11:00

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I have no sympathy for San Jalernjit, the manager of Mai Khao Sakoo, buying 30 cars before he has even been given a licence. That is unbelievable. Also if the licences are revoked or change, he will demand compensation from someone. He is at fault for purchasing first.

Why don't we have the 50 baht price tag like BKK? Because as they said, they make 1bn baht from Phuket. Why would things change with revenue like this? TAX anyone?

Posted by Tbs on February 5, 2010 11:17

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Why the fuss about a 650 B fare from the airport to Patong, for example, when I have to pay 400 B for a 15 min trip to Kata ?

Although I do agree that the airport taxis drive dangerously fast!

Posted by elizabeth on February 7, 2010 12:27


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