You can’t get a fleet taxi — Mega Cabs, Meru, Gold, etc — at the airport, for a while at least.
Fed up with agitations by regular taximen — who claim that fliers prefer the fleet taxis, which is affecting their earnings — fleet taxi services stopped operating from the domestic airport on Monday. They said they would resume services only when the matter was resolved.
Fleet taxis were promoted by the state in 2006 under the Mumbai makeover scheme as a luxurious alternative to the black-and-yellow cabs.
After the agitations began, fleet taxis were made to park at a distance from the departure lounge but the airport installed a hotline that allowed passengers to call them to where they were standing.
On Sunday, there was another protest. On Monday, taxi unions and the authorities met with Assistant Commissioner of Police (Airport Traffic) Sanjay Jambolkar and secured a withdrawal of the hotline.
While Jambolkar refused to divulge the details, claiming there was no problem, the taxi union and fleet taxi companies confirmed the development.
A Meru spokesperson said: “We are shutting operations at the airport till the matter is resolved. We have filed a first information report with the airport police for damage caused to two of our vehicles.” A Mega Cabs official added: “We won’t risk picking up passengers from the airport. If we drop somebody there, we’ll leave immediately.”
The fleet cabs, however, are available outside Sahara Star hotel on the Western Express Highway.
“A meeting took place with the traffic police and the union. The police agreed to remove the hotline,” said Guddu Singh, president of the Mumbai Airport Taxi Union. “We wait for passengers for up to six hours, but [fleet taxis] take away our customers, thanks to the hotline.”
On Monday, cool cabs and regular taxi drivers seized the 40 parking spaces allotted to fleet taxis at the airport.
A Mumbai International Airport Ltd spokesperson said the authorities would try to retain the hotline. “The government has not asked us to stop the service. We would oppose it if the government decides to stop it. Why should taxi unions make the choice for passengers?” he said.
As per airport records, 200 fleet taxis were booked via the hotline last Friday, 380 on Saturday and 441 on Sunday. This, despite passenger traffic dipping on weekends. “Our records show that 70 per cent of the travellers used the hotline to book [fleet taxis], while the rest walked to the parking lot,” said the spokesperson.
Meanwhile, there’s another controversy brewing at the airport. Many passengers have complained that the pre-paid taxi service introduced at the airport less than a week ago is a rip-off. They said they landed up paying more for their trips than they would have paid for regular metered rides.
Transport Commissioner Deepak Kapoor said: “The pre-paid fare was hiked for the benefit of passengers. Taxi drivers can’t extort money from them anymore; they will get the fare at the airport counter only after the passenger signs the bill.”