The deadline for registration is October 31. By December, according to the plan, Phuket will have a system like the one at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, with passengers going to a single counter, saying where they want to go and receiving a ticket which they will give to the first taxi in a nice orderly queue.
A major concern for the airport is the possible loss of large amounts of revenue from taxi cooperatives; up until recently it has collected just over B3 million a month from the cooperatives in return for allowing their hundreds of members to pick up passengers at Arrivals.
Gp Capt Kanphat Mangkhalasiri, Director of management and preservation of Airports of Thailand (AoT), explained at a meeting yesterday (October 11) that after the drivers register individually with the airport, each will be required to pay airport officials, on the spot, an amount equivalent to 15 per cent of the fare.
The airport aims to register 420 cars, with a further 80 to be listed in a “reserve” pool.
Each car will be fitted with a GPS tracker, and all drivers must wear identical uniforms and “be of good standard”.
All the cars used must be registered with the Transportation Department as taxis or limousines, and must have full insurance. Cars operating as limousines must have engines no smaller than 1950 cc and must not be more than five years old.
“Any driver who harms airport officials or breaks the rules will be regarded as an enemy of the airport,” Gp Capt Kanphat said. “Their contract will immediately be cancelled.”
Pol Col Natphakin Kwanchaiyapeu, superintendent of Tha Chat Chai Police Station, whose territory includes the airport, asked, “Could you please confirm the deadline for registration? Are you sure about this?
“Please, go through with this plan. There are always problems [at the airport] and we are always finding and arresting illegal [black] taxis. There are too many of them and we, the police, always end up taking care of the problems.
“It would be nice if AoT would do something decisive about transportation services.”
One man at the meeting who was not happy with the entire plan was Sarawut Sisakukram, the Mayor of Mai Khao.
He listened frostily to the discussion until the chairman of the meeting, Vice-Governor Jamroen Tippayapongtada, asked what he thought of the plan.
Mayor Sarawut said angrily, “Almost all of the vehicles [from the Mai Khao area] are more than 10 years old. This AOT plan is not subtle enough. It is not good. How I can solve this problem?”
The Phuket Maikhao-Saku Cooperative has 110 taxis and limos operating at the airport.
The others in the meeting were quiet after Mayor Sarawut’s outburst.
Eventually, V/Gov Jamroen said, “The AOT has to form new committee to look into this case. Please update all information, invite stakeholders to join the meeting and set a deadline for this work. And please, report back to me as soon as you can.”
Airport Director Pratuang Sornkham was not at the meeting but told The Phuket News afterwards, “I will follow up on the details soon.
“I am confident that Phuket Airport can meet the same standards [for taxis] as Bangkok.”
But what is not yet clear is what role – if any – the powerful cooperatives will play if the plan is successfully implemented.
Certainly, the plan represents a drastic cutting-back of the power of the cooperatives. What their reaction to this will be has yet to emerge.