Sunday, August 30, 2009

Beware of Mumbai airport taxis

The back and yellow taxis of Mumbai are at it again. Yesterday on my way back home from the domestic airport at Santa Cruz, I took a prepaid taxi (non A/C, black & yellow; B&Y).

The airport authorities, for some strange reason, have driven off the radio taxis (Meru, Mega, etc) away from their usual parking lots and into some far-off corner of the airport complex (near Sahara hotel), but have installed phone services inside the terminal. The phone service is a new facility. There are four phones available, one each for 4 services presently available in Mumbai (Mega, Meru, Forche and Priyadarshini). As soon you claim your baggage from the baggage carousels, and just before you come out of the terminal, you pick up a phone and place an order for a radio taxi. So, as against earlier when these radio taxis were given a parking space near terminals, now they are merely allowed to pick up passengers from there, not park their cars. Parking space is a bit far, near the Sahara Star Hotel.

Unfortunately, yesterday evening all radio taxis were booked, so I had no choice but to take a pre-paid B&Y cab. I opted for a non a/c one. These are rickety-rackety and usually very badly maintained; those old Fiat taxis. The fare was Rs 260 and since it was prepaid, I paid at the airport counter itself. My previous experiences with these B&Y taxis from the airport have always landed up in arguments with them because they always charge extra and their meters are more often than not, tampered. But yesterday since I took a prepaid, I thought it could be different. I was wrong.

After I alighted, the cabbie asked me for extra Rs 20-Rs 30. I asked him why, he muttered something like "insaniyat ke liye" or some such shit. He also said something like as if we customers are making a fool out of them by not paying them anything extra. What crap! I refused to pay him and had a minor argument with him. After which he grumbled and left off.

But this is what we have to put up with. Earlier, when the airport authorities had separate parking lots, just outside the airport terminal, for radio taxis, there was never a shortage of radio taxis. The parking lots always used to be full of these radio taxis; when one used to go, the other used to come upfront and solicit passengers. Radio taxis are transparent and also cheap! A ride in a Meru or Mega cab (fully air-conditioned and well-maintained car) from airport to my place would cost me around Rs 280. (this was before the fares for the B&Y taxis went up effective 1 August). A pre-paid B&Y non-AC taxi in a badly-maintained rickety-rackety taxi cost me Rs 260! I do not know on what basis these fares have been fixed, but its downright highway robbery. And why must these clowns always expect something extra from us even after paying a pre-paid fare at the airport? The airport authorities must allocate a permanent parking space to radio taxis for the convenience of passengers. And not in some remote area. It has to be just outside terminals, so that passengers with all their baggage can walk up straight to them.

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