It's back to common taxi queue at airport for now

The new queue lanes at Terminal 1 for premium taxis were closed yesterday. Customers who wanted premium cabs were directed to the common queue, as was the previous practice. A Changi Airport Group spokesman said the trial, which started on Monday aft
The new queue lanes at Terminal 1 for premium taxis were closed yesterday. Customers who wanted premium cabs were directed to the common queue, as was the previous practice. A Changi Airport Group spokesman said the trial, which started on Monday afternoon, was suspended on Tuesday evening.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Trial of separate queues for premium cabs suspended after cabbies' protests

Changi  Airport has suspended its trial of a segregated taxi queuing system at Terminal 1 (T1), following protests by drivers of premium cabs who said it disadvantaged them and slowed down the flow of taxis.

A visit by The Straits Times yesterday to the two taxi stands at T1's arrival hall found that the new lanes for premium taxis had been blocked with barriers.

Customers requesting premium cabs were directed to the common queue, as was the previous practice. Upon reaching the end of the line, they were asked by coordinators on the ground if they wanted a premium cab.

Airport staff stationed at the stands were also observed carrying out a survey of the number of premium taxi pick-ups.

The Straits Times understands that these surveys are done regularly, to gauge customer satisfaction.

A spokesman for the Changi Airport Group said that the trial, which started on Monday afternoon, was suspended on Tuesday evening.

"This is to gather feedback and, if necessary, to make ground adjustments to enhance the effectiveness of the system together with its key stakeholders," he added.

The one-month trial queue system, aimed at providing commuters with clearer taxi choices, channelled commuters to either a queue for regular taxis or one for premium vehicles, such as a Mercedes-Benz or Chrysler.

Witnesses said that between 50 and 400 premium taxi drivers gathered outside T1 in the early hours of Tuesday and sounded their horns, apparently to express their unhappiness with the new system.

A Chrysler taxi driver, who called himself Kelvin, said the idea slowed down the flow of taxis, resulting in longer waiting times to get passengers.

"It takes between two and 10 minutes usually, depending on demand," said the 41-year-old. "With the new system, I take an extra 15 to 20 minutes."

Waiting times were reported to have stretched to as long as an hour when it was quieter at night.

Other premium taxi drivers said the new queue system put them at a disadvantage, as customers could confuse them with limousines that charge a flat rate, when the fare differential may be only a few dollars in some cases.

National Taxi Association executive adviser Ang Hin Kee said this was understandable. "(The fare for) an old Mercedes, in actual fact, may not be much different from... the newer standard cabs.

"Some may feel that it is unfair for them to be 'premium'," he said.

adrianl@sph.com.sg