Taxi drivers back at Changi, but say extra $3 in surcharge does not make up for long wait, petrol costs

Some taxi drivers are drawn to the airport as they are assured of getting a passenger, but are wary of long wait times. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - There was a long line of cabs waiting for fares at the airport taxi ranks on Friday (May 20), the first day a new increase of $3 in surcharge kicked in for rides from Changi Airport.

This is a change from reports of long queues of people over the past weeks waiting for cabs at Changi amid a rise in number of passengers as international air travel picks up, coupled with a lower supply of taxis.

But there remains a challenge in keeping the cabbies going to the airport. Nearly all the 13 drivers The Straits Times spoke to said that the increased surcharge, which will be in place until June 30, still does not make up for the petrol costs and the long wait of sometimes up to an hour for a fare.

Until June 30, taxi trips starting from the airport cost an additional $8 from 5pm to 11.59pm daily, and an additional $6 at all other times. The usual surcharge is $5 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 5pm to 11.59pm, and $3 at all other times.

When The Straits Times visited Changi Airport Terminal 3 on Friday afternoon, there was a line of passengers at the pick-up point as a flight had just landed. But it took only about five minutes to clear them, before the taxi ranks grew and were left waiting.

Mr Chua Ee Lye, 66, who has been a taxi driver for 36 years, said he could earn more by picking up more passengers in other places.

He said even after he drops a passenger off at the airport, he would join the queue only if the call for taxi sign is on. It was on when ST visited.

"The $6 surcharge is not enough... unless I want to rest, then I can come here and queue," he added.

Mr Chan Chee Hung, 49, said he would not go to the airport because of the surcharge, although the extra $3 played a part in getting him to join the queue after he had dropped off a fare at the airport.

"It's just an extra $3 only," he said, adding that it would cost more than $3 in petrol for the drive to the airport from his home without a fare.

For Mr Zuhairi Sapie, 48, the long wait times weigh on his mind as he finds himself working longer hours just to make the same amount of money as before due to higher petrol costs.

If he does head to the airport, the veteran cabby of 18 years uses an app that allows him to get real-time flight information so that the wait time for a fare is shorter.

With passenger traffic averaging above 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, Transport Minister S. Iswaran said on Wednesday that Singapore will be reassessing its year-end target of 50 per cent after an expected wave of travellers in June.

Some of the taxi drivers interviewed said they are drawn to the airport as they are assured of getting a passenger, but are wary of long waiting times. With the reopening of borders, they expect shorter waiting times ahead with more flights coming into Singapore.

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