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.