Airport execs told: Add more taxis, allow Uber, GrabCar to operate

MANILA, Philippines – To address the transport needs of thousands of passengers arriving at the Philippines' premier airport, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara said more taxis and app-based transport services like Uber and GrabCar should be allowed to operate at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

During a Senate hearing on Monday, January 25, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said there are currently 1,497 accredited transport units at NAIA. These include rental cars, coupon taxis, and the cheaper metered taxis.

But this number is not enough for the tens of thousands of passengers arriving at NAIA's 4 terminals.

In 2014, MIAA recorded 46,418 passengers arriving daily at NAIA. The average number of metered taxi and coupon taxi users daily, however, were only at 10,777.

MIAA general manager Jose Angel Honrado said that the airport will need to have more taxi units available, especially since the number of arriving passengers daily has gone up to 50,210 in 2015.

"We increased passenger load, but our supply of transportation units is not growing," Honrado said.

More vehicles needed

To address the problem, Honrado said the MIAA, in coordination with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), are considering allowing app-based transport network vehicle services like Uber and GrabCar to pick up passengers at the airport.

Honrado added that they have also asked the LTFRB to accredit more metered taxis inside NAIA, since passengers prefer these to the more expensive fixed-rate coupon taxis and rental cars.

Currently, unaccredited white metered taxis are allowed to pick up passengers at the arrival areas of NAIA Terminals 2 and 3 during peak hours. 

In the past, regular taxis were only allowed to pick up new riders if they also brought departing passengers to the airport.

Angara, vice chairman of the Senate tourism committee, earlier said the lack of available transport services at the airport may affect tourism in the country.

Lawmakers have pointed out that the shortage of available metered taxis at the airport – much cheaper than the fixed-rate airport cabs – have forced desperate passengers to agree to exorbitant rates from rental car operators.

Angara earlier filed Senate Resolution 1702 to investigate the issue of overcharging taxi drivers.

"It's good that there's a demand for transport services from the airport. But we have to match that by increasing the supply of available taxis," Angara said.

Traffic, infra projects to blame

During the hearing, MIAA outlined several factors behind the shortage of available taxis for arriving passengers.

At the top of the list was the worsening traffic in Metro Manila and ongoing construction of the NAIA expressway.

Honrado said that because of heavy traffic, it takes 2 to 6 hours for taxis to return to the airport to pick up more passengers.

In a 12-hour period, taxis make only about 3 or 4 trips, Honrado said.

Angara, however, said the ongoing infrastructure work aggravating traffic are only "short-term problems that will soon be fixed."

"In the long term, we still don't have enough taxis serving our passengers," he said.

Honrado said MIAA is already in talks with Uber and GrabCar to discuss how to set up guidelines for the drivers and how the airport authority can monitor trips of passengers using the app-based services.

The MIAA chief said they are still waiting for Uber's proposal. Meanwhile, Honrado said GrabCar has already proposed setting up an iPad at the airport that passengers can use to book trips. – Rappler.com