Cabbies, private-hire drivers continue to avoid Changi Airport; longer wait for travellers

As ridership gradually increases, Changi Airport is finding it harder to attract drivers. PHOTO: SHIN MIN DAILY NEWS

SINGAPORE - Taxi drivers are still reluctant to return to queue at Changi Airport, despite March recording 1.14 million travellers, the first time it has crossed the one million mark since the Covid-19 pandemic.

With fuel costs high, and more money to be made in the Central Business District and at night, drivers The Straits Times spoke to said they find that there is no reason to go all the way there for passengers, where they risk long periods of waiting with engines switched on.

“It is not worth the time,” said Grab driver Anamullah Hamidullah. “The wait for passengers can be up to 40 minutes long.”

The 63-year-old added: “There still aren’t enough travellers. There may be more passengers past midnight when many planes are landing, but I will have to go there with an empty car.”

As ridership gradually increases – to the point where passengers now find it difficult to get a ride at certain times of the day – Changi Airport is finding it harder to attract drivers, which is integral to providing a seamless travelling experience for travellers.

In April, Changi Airport Group launched an incentive programme where drivers were given a reward of $10 for each day they made a minimum of three trips to the airport in three time windows – 6am to 10am, noon to 1pm and 4pm to 7pm.

It also gave out free coffee to drivers in the morning, but measures are still inadequate.

Mr Koh, an airport worker who wanted to be known only by his last name, said taxi queues are at about 40 per cent of what it was pre-pandemic, but taxis available at the airport have remained at a fifth of what it was.

The 52-year-old said the problem is especially bad in the early morning when there are the most flights, with waits of up to 45 minutes on one Sunday.

He dreads when travellers get irritated during the long wait.

“When that happens, we don’t know what to do either,” he said. “We hope more taxi drivers come back to help us with our job.”

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