Uber vs Metered Taxis
A report today in the Thai media states that Airports of Thailand (AOT) has confirmed their position that Uber drivers are not welcomed to pick up or deliver passengers from Suvarnabhumi Airport. If you keep up with the goings on with Uber, like a few other countries in the world, Uber has caused tensions with the more traditional public transport systems, namely metered taxis.
Technically, the ban isn’t specific against Uber as it relates to “unauthorised vehicles” which is deemed to be any vehicle of a commercial purpose/nature. It should be kept in mind that Uber is not the only service of this nature in Thailand with Grab Taxi (includes Grab Car) another popular car service also falling under the umbrella of being not welcomed at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
While ‘commercial vehicles’ are caught, at least your friends and family will still be able to pick you from the airport – in theory that is (just hope you don’t get picked up too regularly where someone notices the same car). There may be some debate if Uber driving is a full time commercial activity by some of its drivers – but the more important issue is that it competes with an existing commercial activity and that is enough.
It was also reported that violators would be handed a 2,000 baht fine. I expect that Uber will probably cover the fines but the driver will be recorded in AOT database which could result in a ban from entering AOT property if caught again. The latest comes after local news reported a previous incident 5 days earlier where an Uber driver has already been fined 2,000 baht for collecting passengers at Suvarnabhumi Airport causing a social uproar. Link to that news story here
Reasons to use Uber or Grab Car
One REALLY good reason is that they will have seat belts in the rear seat being a private vehicle. It challenges my comprehension to understand why rear seat belts are taken out of metered taxis in Thailand – effectively guaranteeing you to be transformed into a human projectile in any serious crash (It should be noted that Grab Taxi predominantly use metered taxis but do have Grab Car for private vehicles). Secondly (if you go to departures), you get away from the game of ensuring the waiting taxi’s use their meter or alternatively, on the odd occasion, having the driver try to renegotiate the fare for any X number of reasons upon reaching your destination. Thirdly (if you use the official taxi rank) you can avoid delays standing in ques which occur frequently.
Reasons not to use Uber
The main reason is that it is considered illegal in Thailand due to no licencing system of the drivers or vehicles. A more disturbing reason is that an Uber driver assaulted a passenger last year and it was reported that Uber Thailand was less than forthcoming to identify the driver in question without approal of head office. Link to that news story here
So the question is, will the latest crackdown last? Like a lot of things in Thailand, who knows! Quite rightly they aren’t trying to fine tourist and with Uber reimbursing any fines, its a wait and see case whether it is enough of a deterrent for Thai Uber drivers. You may find it hard to get an Uber at Suvarnabhumi Airport in the short term, but I have no doubt it will be tested from time to time and if enough drivers get away without being caught, things will return to being the same. Of course, one strategy around this is to take the airport link to your closest airport link station and catch your Uber from there. Alternatively, you may want to greet your Uber driver as if you’ve been the best friends for years with a huge hug!
Using metered Taxis
Are Thai metered taxis really that bad? Personally from my experience – I don’t think so. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had a bad experience with metered taxis in Thailand. Sure, add to that I’ve had to ask a second or third taxi before finding someone who would take me where I wanted to go with the meter but these examples are in the minority compared to the number of taxi rides I’ve taken over the years. Knowing how to deal with taxi drivers from the start in Thailand is 95% of the battle. The other 5% is just going to be one those life memories that no matter what you do or know, its just going to happen regardless.