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Bolt driver challenges AoT rule over picking up tourists at Phuket airport

Bolt driver challenges AoT rule over picking up tourists at Phuket airport

PHUKET: An independent taxi van driver working through the Bolt app has challenged the ban on independent drivers from picking up passengers at Phuket International Airport ‒ a mandate controlled by Airports of Thailand (AoT).

By Eakkapop Thongtub

Thursday 29 September 2022, 05:58PM

The driver, Suriya Thongsamak, is calling for officials to make the rule clear about whether or not independent taxi drivers ordered through taxi apps can pick up passengers from the airport. Photo: Eakkapop Thongtub

The driver, Suriya Thongsamak, is calling for officials to make the rule clear about whether or not independent taxi drivers ordered through taxi apps can pick up passengers from the airport. Photo: Eakkapop Thongtub

The driver, Suriya Thongsamak, has also refused to pay the fine for attempting to pick up tourists from the airport, which he was not allowed to do yesterday (Sept 28).

Mr Suriya went public with his challenge with videos posted online earlier today (Sept 29), calling for officials to clarify whether or not independent taxi drivers can pick up tourists from the airport.

The current rules set out by AoT is that independent taxi drivers can drop passengers off at the airport ‒ but not pick them up, even if the tourists themselves order the taxi through an app.

The current rules are not published anywhere in written form, and are only an “understanding” relayed by word of mouth without any written confirmation from AoT.

Mr Suriya’s posts have gained much attention online. In his posts, Mr Surya called on the Phuket Governor to intervene in the matter.

“Is this a world-class tourist city? In the past, the province has always had a policy that tourists can use the [taxi] service through the app. Is it really usable?” Mr Suriya posed.

Mr Suriya explained to reporters today that he had accepted an order via the Bolt app placed by two foreign tourists last night. The tourists asked to be picked up at the airport at 7pm and taken to Kata.

Mr Suriya arrived at the airport and waited for the tourists, a young couple, who entered his van after exiting the arrivals hall.

However, two security guards approached his van, preventing him from driving away. One of the security guards opened the door to the van and told the tourists to get out. The van was not allowed to pick up tourists at the airport, the couple were told.

Mr Suriya was then escorted to where a poster in Thai language nearby explained that only approved taxi drivers were permitted to serve passengers at the airport. Drivers caught breaking the rule would be prosecuted and expelled from the airport grounds, the poster said.

The security guard explained the terms so that Mr Suriya understood.

Meanwhile, the tourists, unsatisfied with their experience and refusing to use the AoT-controlled taxi service at the airport, dragged their luggage to the main road in front of the airport and hailed a taxi from there.

Mr Suriya was then taken to Sakhu Police Station, located just south of the airport, where he refused to pay the fine for non-AoT-approved taxi drivers picking up passengers at the airport.

“At first the officer did not want to press any fine,” Mr Suriya said. “The standard fine is B2,000, but the officer asked me to pay just B300 instead. I still refused.”

Mr Suriya explained that his van is fully legally registered for hire to carry passengers and he has the requisite licence to operate a taxi vehicle.

“I didn’t hold up a sign or call out to get customers at the airport. I received my booking from the app. The customer has a clear identity, so I went to go get it,” he added.

“I want to fight for the rules to be the same for taxi operators so it is the same for everyone, and so everyone knows what taxis are operating at the airport. How wrong is that?” Mr Suriya said.

Adcha Buachan, Chief of the Phuket Land Transport Office (PLTO), told reporters today that the the issue was not a matter for his office to intervene with.

The driver, Mr Suriya, has the correct taxi driver’s licence and his van is properly legally registered to be used as a taxi. That was the end of the PLTO’s concern, he said.

“The problem that has arisen in this case has already been submitted to the ministry [Ministry of Transport]. The ministry has already set a policy that the airport authority is the one who together with the Department of Highways organises [which taxis may operate at the airport].” Mr Adcha said.

See also: Phuket Opinion: Taxi cartels losing the turf war

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Wolfgang0815 | 01 October 2022 - 12:45:23

Phuket Airport legally is a company as any other registered company.
Claiming security concerns in an area where every private car can go in and out is just stupid.
It would make sense for the police to investigate where all the money goes which is paid by the taxis to be "registered". This will tell the real reason for the behavior.

christysweet | 30 September 2022 - 10:01:34

Great example of mangled  translation. 'How wrong is that.." means something opposite from the intended- "how is that wrong..?"

Kurt | 30 September 2022 - 09:54:17

Poor tourists. Arriving at Phuket International Airport, and to be able to hail a normal taxi of their choice, by app or not, they have to walk with their luggage to mainroad outside airport. Can it be more mafioser, transport wise? It's a sickening transport cancer what Phuket suffers for to long already.

Kurt | 30 September 2022 - 09:45:42

It seems that Phuket Officialdom keeps ignoring the power of international social media when it comes to the continuing 'downgrading' of Phuket's image as a tourist destination. Phuket airport ( AoT) cultivates tourist transport cartel. What right to do that do they have to damage the image of Phuket? It seems that AoT and PLTO splitted tasks in all this bad happenings. 

JohnC | 30 September 2022 - 08:35:01

Officials don't understand or even seem to care about is what this does to Phuket's reputation. I have heard tourists say they considered turning around on arrival at the airport to go straight back home because of the harrassment of touts and counter staff pushing them to take THEIR taxis. It is NOT a welcoming feeling walking in to the Phuket airport arrivals hall by any means. 

Capricornball | 29 September 2022 - 22:56:36

You can also bet your baht that the tourists will be posting their negative experience on social media, which will take this unpleasant experience and distribute it to the world. The public transport mafia needs to go. The only single group that damages Thai tourism more is the corrupt police, and THAT ain't never changing.

Capricornball | 29 September 2022 - 22:52:59

Well done Mr. Suriya. Not many Thais have the balls and conviction to stand up for what it right and just. Once again, the public transport mafia led by the AoT in this case, and enforced by the airport cartel, gave Phuket tourism another black eye before the new arrivals even got to their hotel. Good on the tourists for also not bending to the cartel.

maverick | 29 September 2022 - 20:46:12

Walk across the road to meet the app based taxis saves all this hassle - he won’t win that fight it’s a cartel 

Kurt | 29 September 2022 - 19:44:50

Mr Suriya has a case. He has a certified licensed taxi. AoT promotes cartel forming. And of course, Plus a nice piece of Police corruption. "You don't have to pay fine of 2000, just give me 300".  Give me a bowl for vomiting.

Fascinated | 29 September 2022 - 19:27:14

Good for him- he's not breaking the law. Stuff 'understandings'-time to break the mafias. Unfortunately 'frontier justice' will probably see him unemployed in the near future. Well done the tourists as well- hope they got it up on social media. You can guess where the B300 was going!


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