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Grab at NAIA Terminal 2

Here is another useful post for travelers especially during this Holy Week and the summer holiday season in the Philippines. Many people usually look for a ride heading out from the airport. Not everyone would have someone to fetch them. There are several options now for those wanting to take public transport. Aside from the conventional taxis, there are also airport taxis, vans and the more recent airport bus service provided by UBE Express. Ridesharing or car sharing services are also available and the most visible will be Grab with options for either car or taxi available via you own app or through their booths located at the NAIA airport terminals. There should be a Grab booth located at the arrival areas of NAIA’s terminals. They also have a booth at the Mactan Cebu International Airport terminal.

You can easily spot the Grab booth and pick-up area as you exit the terminal’s arrival lounge.

You can book a ride with the grab staff at the booth if you don’t have a smart phone and the Grab app. You can also just call for a car or taxi using the app. This is the pick-up point for Grab Cars. Grab Taxis would have to use the driveways for taxis parallel and just to the left of this driveway.

Grab has become a game changer for taxis out of the airport. In fact, my own father found them to be a convenient and safe option for a recent trip from Terminal 2 to our home in Cainta. He didn’t have to negotiate fares and he paid a very reasonable fare while enjoying his ride on a recent model car.

Taxi stands and queues at NAIA Terminal 3

I saw a photo going around recently in social media showing the long queue for taxis at the NAIA Terminal 2. That’s actually not as bad as how the queues at Terminal 3 can be. Terminal 2 only serves Philippine Airlines’ international and trunkline (read: Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Bacolod, etc.)flights. PAL has transferred many of its domestic flights to Terminal 3. Terminal 3 serves all the flights of Cebu Pacific plus several major international airlines that have transferred there from Terminal 1 including Delta, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and ANA. Following are a few photos of the rental car, fixed rate taxi and metered taxi stands at Terminal 3. These photos were taken last May, and still within the ‘summer’ peak period of travel in the Philippines. I was there to fetch the wife who was arriving from the US via Narita.

IMG_1550Rental car booths along the island across from the arrival curb and driveway of NAIA Terminal 3.

IMG_1551More rental car and limousine booths (many unmanned) just outside the arrival level. Note the car rental poster/sign affixed on one of the columns.

IMG_1552 Fixed rate coupon taxi stand

IMG_1553Published taxi fare rates (as approved by the LTFRB) may be found in the area. I apologise for the photo not being clear enough for my readers to see the rates.

IMG_1554Long queue for the metered (regular) taxis at NAIA Terminal 3

IMG_1555Metered taxi stand at the NAIA Terminal 3 arrival area

Passengers now also have the option to take the so-called premium airport bus services operated by logistics company Air21. There is also an airport shuttle service connecting NAIA’s four terminals. If staying at a hotel, people may also opt to avail of their hotel’s vehicle service. Also, Uber is now allowed to fetch people at the airport (I don’t exactly understand how authorities could know before if a car was Uber.) after being banned (duh?) from the airport.

Mactan Cebu Airport taxi terminal

I wanted to post about the new taxi stands at the Mactan Cebu International Airport as early as September of last year but I didn’t have good photos to show in the article. Last December, however, I was able to get a load of pictures during 2 trips to Cebu. The terminal at the arrival level of the airport is basically divided into 2 stands – the White Taxi Stand and the Yellow Taxi Stand. Here are the photos of the taxi terminal at Cebu’s airport.

2015-12-08 10.25.25Covered facilities allow for all-weather queuing of passengers.

2015-12-08 10.25.52White taxis are regular taxis while the yellow ones are ‘airport taxis’ charging higher fares.

2015-12-08 10.25.56 The lines for the white taxis are definitely longer and this is basically due to the lower fares charged by regular taxis.

2015-12-08 10.26.01Obviously, there are more regular (white) taxis than yellow taxis so the queue proceed well and the waiting times are not so long.

2015-12-08 10.26.35 There are 5 spaces for taxis but everyone seems to be queuing for the first one. The dispatchers could do better to make the lines go faster.

2015-12-08 10.26.51That’s the queue behind us, all going for the regular taxis.

2015-12-08 10.29.03If the queue for the white taxis is proceeding at an acceptable pace, few people take the yellow taxis. Vehicle-wise, yellow taxis are newer and better maintained models. My observation (based on limited experience) is that yellow taxi drivers are also less reckless than drivers of white taxis.

2015-12-08 10.29.15There are two booths for app-enabled taxis like Grab Taxi and Easy Taxi. Passengers for these may proceed to the area near the booths and board their taxis at the bays near them.

Here are a few photos from the second trip last December when we experienced long queues for taxis. I think we arrived during the morning peak at the airport when a couple of international flights using wide-bodied planes arrived.

2015-12-09 13.05.20A very long queue for the white taxis greeted us when we got out of the airport terminal.

2015-12-09 13.06.00There was a constant arrival of taxis but the demand was just too high; resulting in the long queue.

2015-12-09 13.15.27There is a priority lane for senior citizens, expectant mothers and families with children. Dispatchers make sure that these people get their taxis ahead of others.

On airport taxis at NAIA-Manila

Arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 from a domestic trip, we noticed the long lines of people needing to get a taxi to get to their homes or other destinations. NAIA has accredited a taxi company or companies as official airport taxis and travelers have a choice between metered and fixed rate taxis. Regular taxis were generally prohibited from picking up passengers at the airport terminals though they bring in passengers and could take passengers from the departure areas of the terminals; a common practice in other airports. I say ‘were’ because recently, in what seemed to be an effort to address the taxi supply issue, NAIA has allowed regular taxis to pick up passengers during ‘peak hours’. I say they should just assign a place for people to get regular taxis just like in Mactan Cebu and Davao.

IMG10774-20150421-1717Long lines for the metered airport taxi cabs

IMG10775-20150421-1717Long lines for the fixed rate taxis

IMG10776-20150421-1719Another looks at the long lines – not exactly the greeting you’d like when arriving in a city

Getting a taxi at Mactan Cebu International Airport

It is easy to get a taxi in many airports in the Philippines not named NAIA. The list includes, of course, Mactan Cebu International Airport. There is a regular taxi stand just a few meters walk from the arrival area. You have to cross the driveway and there are directional signs to guide travelers towards the taxi stand that is just a short flight of stairs from the corridor across the arrival area.

IMG09952-20150109-1459Directional sign to the taxi stand – definitely not international standard but is clear and sufficient for its purpose.

IMG09953-20150109-1500Queue for taxis – there has been an improvement here as there is now a tent for passengers’ shelter and a driveway for taxis. It used to be an open area along the MCIA driveway where taxis are lined up.

IMG09954-20150109-1501The stand is manned by airport security and staff who also issue information on the taxi on a piece of paper containing a phone number of the MCIA for complaints. I don’t know if they get a lot of complaints and if the airport acts on these if and when there are complaints from passengers.

IMG09955-20150109-1504Passengers loading luggage in the trunk of a taxi – there are many LPG-fueled taxis in Cebu and if you have many pieces or large luggage it would be better to select a taxi with more trunk space. LPG taxis have their tanks inside the trunk, limiting space for luggage.

IMG09956-20150109-1505Some workers are busy doing the lane markings for the driveway. We thought that these probably being undertaken in preparation for the APEC meetings that several Philippine cities will be hosting.

The curious case of Uber in the Philippines

Before anything else, I must first state that I have not used Uber in the Philippines nor have I used it elsewhere. Its probably because I have not found a use for it…yet. In cities in other countries that I have traveled to, I often use public transport and cities with good mass transit systems have very high marks for me. There are taxi services in these cities and I have had mixed experiences with taxis in Bangkok and even Singapore. I think Japan’s taxis are excellent and locally, Iloilo’s taxis particularly that of one company should be the model for city taxi services in the country.

The services offered by Uber reminds me of the evolution of UV Express or FX services. Back in the 1990s, private vehicle owners/drivers saw an opportunity to “earn a few pesos” by offering a ride to people waiting along the road. An AUV driver, for example, bound for Makati from Quezon City would take in a few passengers for an agreed fee and the collection would help him defray costs of fuel as well as of maintenance for a trip that he would likely make alone if he didn’t offer rides to others. He had no coverage for his passengers should they be involved in a crash and they even conspired to claim they were carpooling or were friends if accosted by authorities (i.e., when suspected to be running a colorum vehicle). This is practically the same service offered through Uber. The only difference being that Uber employs an app to facilitate “service contract” between driver and passenger. The app basically makes the agreement discrete and unknown to regulators of transport services.

Like the predecessors of UV Express services, Uber service providers serve a segment of commuters who have difficulties getting a public transport ride and are likely also to be frustrated or disgruntled about the poor quality of public transport services. This is not limited to taxi services but encompass bus, jeepney, UV Express, tricycle and rail transport that a majority of commuters regularly take to go to their offices, schools or other destinations. I purposely omitted walking and cycling here as everybody essentially walks and cycling is not really a transport service along the lines of public utility vehicles.

Very recently, the Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) ruled that Uber is illegal, basically classifying it as colorum – terminology for vehicles illegally operating as public transport. Is the agency totally wrong about their ruling against Uber? While I haven’t seen the decision or read any memos regarding this, I would assume that the board had its reasons and some of these are reasonable, sound bases for such a memo. For one, regular public transport services require insurance for carrying passengers. Regular insurance taken by private car owners covers the driver and the passengers who ride for free but public transport carry passengers for a fee (fares) and thus drivers and the operators have a bigger responsibility particularly with regard to safety. This question on liability is perhaps the biggest question for Uber and the people behind it. I think this will be a good topic for law schools to take up and perhaps a good subject for debates for and against the service.

However, the bigger question perhaps, and especially to netizens who vented their anger at the LTFRB for the decision against Uber, is: Are you really angry because of the LTFRB decision against Uber or because you are unhappy about transport services in Metro Manila (and elsewhere in the country general)? Online articles have become a feast for trolls as they typed in their scorchers for the agency but I am willing to bet most of these haven’t even taken an Uber vehicle prior to their posting their opinions online. Most know about Uber as a concept or as an app but haven’t read or learned about experiences elsewhere and why it has become popular or notorious depending on the conditions where it is operating. While people I know have used it and benefited from the service, there should still be safeguards for users who essentially do not know who will drive up to pick them up for their trip. Definitely, there are security and safety concerns that need to be clarified here. Also, would this lead to people who would take this up as a full-time job rather than as something more like a “for-hire” car or van-pool? And lastly, we should not be distracted and lose sight of the ultimate goal. That is, we should push for better transport systems and services so that Uber and other similar services would not be essential for our commutes. –

Airport taxi at NAIA?

I have been hearing and reading a lot about horrible experiences of various people including friends on airport taxis. All the stories seem to be about getting a taxi at NAIA where airport management has “accredited” one or a few companies to provide airport taxi services. This exclusiveness has clearly become disadvantageous to many passengers who have not previously arranged for someone to pick them up at the airport (e.g., a relative, a friend, his/her company vehicle, or maybe transport service from the hotel where they will be staying). The coupon taxi services, however, is usually the safer bet for those unfamiliar with Metro Manila as regular meter taxis often “prey” on travellers who are not knowledgeable about fares and traffic conditions. Often, one would have to negotiate for fares though there are honest cab drivers who would do their jobs without haggling or demanding for tips.

Allow me to cite a number of examples in international airport terminals abroad and in other Philippine cities where getting a taxi at the airport is relatively straightforward and stress-free:

1. In Singapore’s Changi Airport, you can easily get a cab at any of the terminals. You just get into the queue (if there is any) and get the next available taxi. The drivers do not discriminate among potential passengers and the only question asked is about the destination of the passenger. Sometimes, the driver will ask about a passenger’s preferred route as there are toll roads between Changi and the destination. There are bus and rail services connecting the airport to the rest of the city-state and many passengers also choose these options.

2. In Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, you can also get a taxi at the queue at the basement level. There are airport taxi counters at the lobby as passengers come out of the arrivals but these are the more “exclusive” companies and charge more per vehicle. However, if you are a group comprised of at least 4 people, then it would be cost effective to engage these companies as they can provide a larger vehicle (e.g., van) that can be more comfortable than a regular taxi. This is particularly recommended for people who have a lot of luggage like families. Otherwise, you can take a regular cab at the basement level queue. These are metered taxi but some may negotiate a fixed (and therefore higher) rate. Transfer to another if you don’t agree with the driver.

3. In Cebu’s Mactan Airport, the taxi bay is a just a few minutes walk from the arrival area. There is a queue and a security guard issues a ticket with information on the taxi (license plate number and company) that he gives to the passengers as reference should there be complaints on the driver as well as in cases where some belongings are left in the taxi.

4. In Iloilo, there are many taxis to choose from once you get out of the airport terminal. There are many taxi service counters just outside the arrival area and passengers can engage any of these companies for a ride to the city or other destinations. My Ilonggo friends will definitely recommend Light of Glory as their taxi company of choice. This company is highly regarded for their quality of service that includes honesty among its drivers. You can also contact them to make arrangements for transport between your hotel/accommodations and the airport.

5. In Davao, there is a regular taxis queue just outside the terminal building and the city has a transport enforcement unit that is stricter than most LGUs. This ensures that taxis will likely comply with traffic rules and regulations including the safe conveyance of passengers to/from the airport. These are metered taxis though there will always be taxi drivers who will attempt to negotiate fares or tips with the passengers. This will not be done at the airport as airport or city staff will be on watch at the terminal. Instead, the negotiations are done once the passenger is inside the taxi and leaving the airport.

Of course, in the international airports I mentioned, there is the option of taking the airport express train instead of taking a cab. Both Changi and Suvarnabhumi, for example, have excellent rail connections, and more experienced travelers would probably take these train services over taxis as they are less expensive and allow for shorter travel times (i.e., taxis can be caught in congested roads especially during peak periods).

NAIA desperately needs good options for public transport such as airport limousines or more dependable taxi services. Sadly, getting a taxi in Metro Manila is basically a “hit or miss” affair. There is a 50/50 chance that you will get a good taxi driver so there is an equal chance that you will get a bad one. At the airport, there might be a higher likelihood that one can get a bad taxi if we assume that taxi drivers might be  deliberately taking advantage of potential passengers who are not familiar with Metro Manila and its taxis. As mentioned earlier, more experienced travellers would likely have pre-arranged transport between the airport and their destinations. So the coupon taxis would have to do for now and until there are better options for transport including more reliable regular metered taxi services.