SINGAPORE - Passengers taking a taxi from Changi Airport will continue to pay an additional $3 per trip until the end of the year, as the increase in the location surcharge will be extended by six months.
The increased surcharge - which Changi Airport Group (CAG) had earlier said was aimed at ensuring a better supply of cabs to the airport - kicked in on May 19 and was originally supposed to end on June 30.
This surcharge hike will now be extended until Dec 31, 11.59pm, said taxi operator Strides Taxi, a subsidiary of public transport company SMRT, in a Facebook post on Thursday (June 23).
ComfortDelGro, Prime Taxi and Premier Taxi published notices of the extension on Friday (June 24).
Under current regulations, taxi fares here are determined by the operators. Any changes must be lodged with the Public Transport Council in advance and publicised at least seven days beforehand.
With the increase, taxi rides starting from the airport, Changi Air Freight Centre, the Airport Police Station and the Airport Logistics Park of Singapore, will cost an additional $8 every day from 5pm to 11.59pm, and an additional $6 at all other times.
Before the fare hike, the airport surcharge was $5 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 5pm to 11.59pm, and $3 at all other times.
The decision to raise the surcharge had come amid a reluctance from cabbies to go to the airport to pick up passengers despite a revival in international air travel, resulting in a shortage of cabs and long queues at the airport's taxi stands.
Increasing the surcharge drew more cabs back to Changi, but taxi drivers had told The Straits Times that it does not make up for petrol costs, which have risen by 30 to 40 per cent in the past six months, and the long wait of up to an hour for a fare.
Responding to ST’s queries, a CAG spokesman said the surcharge hike has improved the supply of taxis at Changi Airport, but did not provide more details.
When ST visited Changi Airport Terminal 3 on Friday morning, there were about 30 taxis queuing outside of the arrival hall and passengers were able to board a cab almost immediately.
Cabbies interviewed were not aware that the airport surcharge hike would be extended, but said they welcomed the move.
Mr Toh Cheng Chuan, 68, who has been a taxi driver for 17 years, said he enjoyed picking up fares from the airport because of the increased surcharge.
“I have been going to the airport more frequently. Aside from the surcharge, there are also more passengers because there are more flights,” he said.
Another cabby, Mr Lim Whay Yuan, said he is more attracted by CAG’s own incentive scheme, in which cabbies can earn a daily $10 reward if they make a minimum of three trips to the airport during specific time windows.
“I made an additional $150 in April thanks the incentive. It really adds up,” Mr Lim said.
The incentive scheme will end on June 30.
Asked about the surcharge hike, the 70-year-old added: “Maybe they’re trying to get more taxis to come because they’re trying to open up the airport. They say Changi is the best airport in the world, so how can there be no taxis?”
However, Mr Jovin Lim, 54, who drives a seven-seater cab and makes 10 to 12 trips to the airport daily, said that the surcharge has attracted a lot of smaller taxis to the airport, resulting in longer queues.
“The surcharge makes it difficult for bigger cabs. I waste a lot of time queuing,” he said.
During an announcement earlier this month (June 10) that Terminal 4 will reopen in September and operations at Terminal 2 will be increased to half by October, Transport Minister S. Iswaran had said that the response to the increased surcharge "has been good and generally managing well with demand".
But the minister also said that the situation at Changi is very dynamic.
"When passenger volume goes up, you have to basically see how flexibly we can respond. What we see now is the taxi services have caught up," he told reporters.
"But whether we need to do more, whether we need further adjustments, I think this is something that we are constantly monitoring because this is really a period of quite rapid changes," he added.
Last month, 2.47 million passengers passed through Changi Airport - a 28 per cent increase from 1.93 million in April, and 14 times more than in May last year.
With travel restrictions easing globally, Changi Airport's handling capacity is expected to return to pre-Covid-19 levels of 70 million passengers per year by October.
Currently, only T1 and T3 are fully open. They have the capacity to handle 46 million passengers a year, two-thirds of 2019 volumes.
T2, which had been undergoing upgrading works for the past two years, will reopen in phases over the next two years.
The expansion of the terminal is expected to be completed by 2024.
Separately, Strides Taxi will also be raising the charter rates for its London taxis starting from July 1.
It will cost $75 to charter a London taxi for airport arrival transfers and $65 for airport departure transfers - up from the current rates of $55 and $50 respectively.
The point-to-point charter fare for Strides Taxi's London cabs and the hourly charter rate will also go up to $65, from $50 now.
Strides Mobility Services senior general manager Yeow How Pheng said the charter rates were raised due to market demand and rising fuel costs.
“We will continue to monitor market conditions and review the charter rates accordingly,” he added.
- Additional reporting by Elijah Wong and Aditi Bharade