The latest incident became public when a woman Thai tourist posted on social media this week that she was charged B200 per kilometre for her journey with two friends, altogether carrying three items of luggage. The post went viral and Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew has ordered that the incident be investigated.
While no further details have been presented about this latest Phuket taxi ripoff, the difference between metered taxis and what the government calls “chartered taxis” becomes vital. The rates for metered taxis are very clear, widely published and even if the meter has been rigged the increasing fare can be seen by passengers during the journey.
So-called “chartered taxis” are an entirely different animal, and their maximum rates set by law are not easily found.
Last year a chartered taxi van driver put Phuket back on the ugly destination map by charging Australian tourists B3,000 to take them from the airport to Kata.
After the usual public statements by officials to take stern action over the incident, police deemed the high fare charged to be the result of a “misunderstanding” and fined the driver B2,000 for illegally having his passenger van at the airport to pick up passengers. Police said that no more action could be taken as the price was settled through a private negotiation between the driver and passengers.
Meanwhile, Airports of Thailand (AoT), the public company which is 70% government owned and operates Phuket International Airport, fined the driver’s accomplice B2,000 for illegally roaming the halls of the airport terminal soliciting customers to the driver’s van as a transport service.
No explanations were given as to how the van driver was allowed to drive his van into the airport passenger pickup area or how his accomplice openly solicited customers inside the main airport building undetected despite the alleged high security measures in place at Phuket’s key tourism portal.
That is how well these chartered taxis are regulated.
Following last year’s incident Phuket Chamber of Commerce President Thanusak Phungdet blasted how chartered taxis are allowed to operate. “This problem does not happen in a country where laws are strictly enforced,” he said plainly.
Mr Thanusak also called for officials to post signs at the airport showing the fares that are supposedly already installed in the visible public areas at the airport. “Then tourists can see the prices and make decisions before using the service without any need to negotiate,” he said.
The fact that people can negotiate fares with chartered taxis remains lost to people landing on an island so often touted as a “world-class destination”. The fares for chartered taxis were set in 2013, and even then the maximum fare to be charged for journeys from the airport to Kata, Karon, Rawai, Nai Harn and Laem Phromthep were all B1,000. (See below for list of links to official fares for chartered taxis in Phuket posted in 2013.)
Also often not fully appreciated is how much the taxi cartels pay AoT for the privilege of picking up passengers at Phuket airport. The Phuket Limousine and Business service Cooperative (PBC), whose vehicles are identified by the PBC logo on the car doors, admitted in 2007 that it paid B820,000 per month in concession fees to AoT for the right to operate at the airport, an amount that increased 10% annually. That figure was 13 years ago, and PBC is just one company with the right to pick up passengers at the airport.
While AoT as a company has an obligation to its shareholders – it posted a profit of B29 billion for fiscal year 2019, from revenues in excess of B69 billion – the government holds a huge majority share for a reason.
If officials actually want to start correcting the high fares charged by Phuket taxis, they know where to look. In the meantime, everyone is just left to guess why they don’t.
The maximum fares for chartered taxis in Phuket as set by the government in 2013. To download high-resolution images of the set fares for each area, click the following links:
Set fares official notice, click here.
From Patong, click here.
From Karon, click here.
From Kata Beach, click here.
From Phuket Town, click here.
From Phuket Airport, click here.
From Rawai, click here.
From Cherng Talay, click here.
From Kamala, click here.
From Nai Yang, click here.
From Mai Khao, click here.
From Layan Beach, click here.
Form Koh Siray, click here.
From Ao Por, click here.
From Bang Rong (Pa Khlok), click here.