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'Won't specially come here': S$3 taxi surcharge hike from Changi Airport not a good enough incentive for taxi drivers

The temporary S$3 hike to the taxi surcharge on rides from Changi Airport has been further extended until Jun 30, 2023.

'Won't specially come here': S$3 taxi surcharge hike from Changi Airport not a good enough incentive for taxi drivers
Gone are the days when taxi drivers can pick up passengers within five minutes. The wait can extend to 30 minutes nowadays, despite travel's comeback, some taxi drivers said. (Photo: iStock)

SINGAPORE: Travel may have made a comeback, but some taxi drivers have said there are still not enough incoming passengers to Changi Airport for them to spend time queuing. 

Some also told CNA they could earn more by plying the roads than by waiting in line just to earn the taxi surcharge at the airport. 

Earlier this month, the S$3 hike to the taxi surcharge on rides from Changi Airport was further extended until Jun 30, 2023, along with a one-cent increase in distance-based fares for all cab trips.

The temporary hike to the airport surcharge was first introduced in May for about a month to "ensure a better supply of taxis" there, Changi Airport said at the time. Taxi companies then extended the measure until the end of 2022.


CNA visited a couple of terminals in Changi Airport on Thursday (Dec 22) at 5pm, where the time spent waiting for a taxi did not exceed two minutes due to a lack of passengers.

On the taxi ride into Terminal 1, there was a long queue of taxis - but the stand at the arrival hall only had two passengers in line. Later on, closer to 6pm, this reporter was the only passenger in the queue and immediately got a ride as there was already a taxi waiting. 

At Terminal 3, there was a constant short queue of passengers from 5pm, but everyone got into a taxi within a few minutes of entering the line.    

Mr Ong Chin Lye, who picked up this reporter, told CNA he was only at the airport as he had dropped off his previous passenger at Jewel Changi Airport. 

"Otherwise, I won't specially come here. Not even when I know there are incoming flights. Nowadays, petrol is very expensive. And time is money," the 62-year-old said in Mandarin. 

"Sometimes if I see the queue is very long, I won't join the queue. It's a waste of time. I want to pick up and go." 

Aside from driving a taxi for 11 years, Mr Ong is also on the Grab platform. He noted that despite the resumption of travel, there are still fewer travellers compared to pre-COVID times.

The lack of Chinese travellers is especially noticeable, he said, adding that he only sees business travellers and students from China at the moment. 

Former taxi driver Vincent Tai, who still keeps in touch with other taxi drivers, added that "the tourist demand on arrival has not been like last time, where you can pick up within five to 10 minutes". 

"Now, you might have to wait 30 minutes for a passenger. (Perhaps the) drivers who go to the airport have already earned enough for the day," said the 64-year-old security officer."When we taxi drivers can go in and come out within five minutes, then it will be like good old days."

The taxi queue at Changi Airport's Terminal 1 at 7pm on May 12, 2022. (Photo: CNA/Grace Yeoh)


Taxi drivers also shared the sentiment that waiting in line only to pick up a passenger who wanted to head somewhere nearby was a waste of time.

They were also on the Grab platform, and said they could earn much more with the app than from waiting at the airport. 

Mr Tai, who plans to return to driving again, admitted the S$3 surcharge is a good incentive, especially with the return of travel, but "the current trend is that a lot of taxi drivers are enjoying the premium with Grab calls". 

"My friends say that their income has surged quite high with Grab's premium pricing. ... Why would they want to try their luck and queue up at the airport? (The surcharge) is not good enough for them to come to Changi, especially if (the passenger) wants to go to Pasir Ris or Tampines only," he said. 

"They don't want to incur petrol costs and don’t want to wait half an hour at the airport."

Another driver who only wanted to be known as Mr Lim agreed that those who join the queue at Changi Airport tend to be there "for a period of time". As such they "hope they will get someone (who wants to travel) a long distance". 

"I am someone who likes to (hustle) and if I queue at the airport, what if I pick up a passenger who only wants to go to Pasir Ris? Some people tell me that passengers might give tips, but you can't know that," the 52-year-old told this reporter on the drive to the airport. 

"We have apps that tell us when flights come in but I don't bother. After I drop you off, I will drive off." 

Mr Lim drives about 10 hours a day, six days a week. Within this time, he never joins a queue, "not even at normal taxi stands". 

"Based on my research, there are two types of taxi uncles in a queue: Those who want to go around the area, and those who are retired and are driving for their pastime," he said.

"For drivers like me, it's different. We drive around the island to get more passengers. I don't want to let my cab be empty." 

CNA has contacted Changi Airport Group and taxi companies about taxi supply at the airport. 

Source: CNA/gy(zl)


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