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HOME // National News // Grab does a “deal with the devil” at Phuket and Chiang Mai Airports

Grab does a “deal with the devil” at Phuket and Chiang Mai Airports

Grab has done a “deal with the devil” at both Phuket and Chiang Mai Airports, both operated by Airports of Thailand. Both Airport managements have allowed Grab, and only Grab, the opportunity to operate their ride-hailing services from within the airport grounds. Other ride-hailing services, like Bolt, are still prevented from driving to the actual terminals to pick up or drop off their passengers.

The Thai government has earlier fully legalised ride-hailing services in Thailand.

But Grab’s access to the terminals has come at a price. And the price is entirely being passed on to the customers. In the case of Phuket, the new Grab taxi kiosk at the front of the domestic terminal, allows Grab drivers to pick up passengers AT THE SAME PRICES as the traditional taxis.

These ‘set prices’ are recognised as approximately 2 – 3 times the real-life costs, when compared to a similar distance in, say, around the city in Bangkok.

The provincial government in Phuket has many times insisted that taxis MUST turn on their meters but the vast majority of taxis services from the Phuket Airport terminals are at a set fee. There has been little enforcement of these rules by provincial officials.

In the past, all ride-hailing services to and from Phuket Airport, were approximately half the price of the fixed pricing from traditional taxis. But ride hailing services were forced to only drop off and pick up passengers from outside the airport grounds – with hundreds of disgruntled passengers posting on social media about the farcical situation of having to drag their luggage and suitcases across the car park.

Now, with their new deal, Grab’s fares to and from the Phuket airport are almost identical to the fixed prices from the “Taxi Mafia”.

The same situation has been established in Chiang Mai and Suvarnabhumi (although it is less of a problem at BKK because the taxi fares are much more reasonable).

Chiang Mai Airport officials are justifying their decision to grant Grab exclusive ride-hailing “rights” for services at the passenger terminal.

Ronnakorn Chalermsanyakorn, the CNX airport’s general manager, says only vehicles using the Grab app are permitted to pick up passengers from the airport. He explained that the airport has two categories of transport services: non-regular and public transport.

The non-regular transport category includes Grab, taxis operated by two companies, and airport vans. Meanwhile, the public transport category consists of the regular city bus service and songthaews, which are only allowed to drop off passengers.

Other ride-hailing services are prevented from entering the airport grounds.

Mr. Ronnakorn says that the airport authorises both categories of transport “to maintain control over service quality and passenger safety”.

The response was kicked off by a Bolt driver who complained about being banned from entering the airport to pick up passengers who had booked rides through the Bolt app.

In the video, an official is heard explaining to the driver that while Bolt is not illegal, it is not “approved” by Airports of Thailand to operate at the airport.

The two examples, and Grab’s “deal” with airport officials in Phuket and Chiang Mai, are another case of the strength of the “taxi mafias” which maintain iron-clad control over the taxi services.

In a media release from Grab last November, Worachat Luxkanalode, Country Head of Grab Thailand, suggested that the new Grab kiosks were all about helping their customers. There was no mention made about grooming their fares to match the local taxi fixed rates to secure their access to the airport grounds.

PHOTO: Grab passengers don’t realise that they are paying the same rates as the ‘traditional’ taxis from CNX and HKT.

“After the successful launch of Grab’s service point at Phuket Airport in early September, we received overwhelmingly positive feedback, particularly from international travellers.”

Whilst the grab media release waffles on about “serving their customers” and being “in line with our strategic objectives”, the “deal” with Airports of Thailand has done nothing for travellers except cement the power and strength of the taxi cabals in both Phuket and Chiang Mai.

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