ComfortDelGro taxis to offer flat fares from next Monday

Singapore's largest taxi operator said it will offer the option from next Monday for taxi bookings made through its phone app.
Singapore's largest taxi operator said it will offer the option from next Monday for taxi bookings made through its phone app. PHOTO: ST FILE

Just days after Grab launched dynamic pricing for taxis and taxi-like services, ComfortDelGro announced that it will roll out a flat fare option on its cab-hailing app.

Singapore's largest taxi operator said it will offer the option from next Monday for taxi bookings made through its phone app.

The option will be made available alongside the traditional metered fare on Comfort and CityCab taxis.

"Commuters will be able to choose the one that best suits them," a ComfortDelGro spokesman said.

The flat fare option computes fares and flashes this ahead of a trip, taking into account the distance to be travelled and all existing surcharges, including the booking fee.

"Once a flat fare is chosen, there will be no additional surcharges unless the passenger changes the destination point or makes unplanned stops along the way," the spokesman added.

ComfortDelGro will offer a flat fare option for taxi bookings made through its phone app. This option will be made available alongside the traditional metered fare in Comfort and CityCab taxis.
ComfortDelGro will offer a flat fare option for taxi bookings made through its phone app. This option will be made available alongside the traditional metered fare in Comfort and CityCab taxis. PHOTO: COMFORTDELGRO

A $5 charge for every additional stop enroute and a $5 charge for a change to a further destination (for every additional 5km travelled) are applicable. Electronic Road Pricing charges will also be applicable.

But travel delays arising from traffic jams will not result in a higher fare - unlike the metered fare option.

ComfortDelGro said its drivers will be encouraged to take on flat fare bookings via a waiver of the call levy. The company declined to comment how much this levy is, but cabbies said it is 40 cents per call.

ComfortDelGro also said it was still exploring dynamic pricing, which allows for fares to fluctuate with demand.

Experts said the transport giant is treading cautiously with dynamic pricing given that cabbies from operators which have embraced it were not thrilled that their fares were lowered.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der-Horng said: "Dynamic pricing was first introduced by Uber. It became an attractive feature in the US simply because taxis were scarce."

Dr Lee said Uber was focusing on meeting the demand of "specific passenger groups" who are able and willing to pay more, "rather than mass market passengers".

But in Singapore, he said, taxi services are seen as accessible to the masses.

Dr Lee said he expects ComfortDelGro's flat rate to be generally lower than dynamic fares. "The attractiveness of flat rate is intuitive. Since the taxi fare is known to the passenger at the time of booking, it remains as the passenger's choice of taking or not taking."

National Taxi Association executive adviser Ang Hin Kee said Comfort's move should go down well. "For commuters, it takes away uncertainty of the final cost of a ride," he noted. "For cabbies, they get an additional platform to access commuters."

Lawyer Bryan Tan, 46, who takes cabs regularly, said ComfortDelGro's option is "a good move", as it allows commuters to compare traditional metered fares. He does not think dynamic pricing will be popular as it involves "a lot of guesswork".

Veteran cabby Tony Pang, 67, said it is premature to say if the new option is positive or not but said he would definitely use it to find out.

"It's not proven yet, but I'll use it," he said. "It's something new."

With Comfort's move, there will be around 16,500 Comfort and Citycab taxis offering fixed flat fares. This compares with just over 10,600 from five companies which started offering commuters the option of dynamic pricing last week.

Before these two new options, Singapore's taxi industry already had close to 10 different flagdown rates, three different metered-fare structures, more than 10 kinds of surcharges as well as eight types of phone-booking charges.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2017, with the headline 'ComfortDelGro taxis to offer flat fares from next Monday'. Print Edition | Subscribe