Stricter scrutiny of taxis at HCMC airport

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Noted firm Mai Linh temporarily banned from Tan Son Nhat International Airport


A tourist looks for a taxi on arrival at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Airport authorities are planning to make it more difficult for taxi firms to operate at the airport in a bid to reduce violations and improve services.

Ho Chi Minh City authorities are taking drastic measures to curb the illegal actions of taxi companies at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, an official told the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Thursday (February 9).

Dang Tuan Tu, director of the Tan Son Nhat Aviation Security Center (TASC), said the center was boosting patrols to detect and punish violating taxis and will propose the revocation of business licenses for taxi companies found repeating their violations.

In the long term, the center will draft a plan that would set more conditions for taxis to operate at the airport, he told Tuoi Tre.

Tu said the airport currently has around 10,000 taxis belonging to 11 companies. It is estimated that there are 15,000-16,000 trips made by taxis from and to the airport each day.

Early this year, the Southern Airports Corporation had issued new regulations on the operation of taxis at the airport, Tu said.

One of them said that a taxi company which has been fined 30 times for violations no matter how small the violations are within a month will be suspended. Severe violations include taxi drivers refusing to carry passengers for short distances, overcharging or causing disorder.

More than one month after the new regulations were issued, the Tan Son Nhat authorities banned Mai Linh Taxi, a popular and reputed company, from picking up passengers at the airport's taxi terminal between February 5 and March 4.

The reason, the authorities said, is that there were 45 Mai Linh Taxi drivers who were fined in the first three weeks of January.

Last year, TASC detected more than 2,000 violations by taxi firms at the airport, with the most typical violations being overcharging (drivers not turning on the meter but asking for a lump sum), picking up passengers at wrong locations, refusing to carry passengers on short distances and resisting security officers on duty.

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During an inspection last September, the Transport Ministry banned three taxi firms Petrolimex, Festival and Happy from Tan Son Nhat International Airport because of various violations.

The three firms were recently allowed to resume entering the airport to discharge passengers after the HCMC Transport Department confirmed they had not repeated their violations.

However, the three taxi firms are not allowed to pick up passengers from the airport.

TASC has also asked the HCMC People's Committee, the municipal administration, to spare more space for taxi operations given the shortage of taxi parking lots at the airport.

Frauds perpetrated by HCMC taxis were highlighted last May after Rasnita Mohd Rasid, a journalist with the New Straits Times newspaper in Malaysia went to the office of the Mai Linh Taxi Company to lodge a complaint because a taxi that had cheated her was labeled the "M.Taxi Group."

Officials of the Mai Linh Taxi immediately recognized that the cab she took on May 10 was an illegal one that imitates the company's brand.

On that day, Rasid was forced to pay VND4 million (US$194) for a seven-kilometer ride that should normally cost just $7.

Worse still, she and her friend were dropped far outside the airport in the rain, and made to walk after paying the colossal sum.

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