Taxi Association challenges Airport bus service but passengers disagree

Shortly, after the airport shuttle bus service was introduced, Paro taxi Tshogpa, Dorji Wangdi, 48 said that he started receiving complaints from the Airport Taxi service drivers that they must inform the concerned authorities that their business is at stake.

He also added that ‘’The introduction of such service will cause harm to the airport taxi drivers whose source of income is only the money they earn from picking and dropping off passengers from the airport.

He said that, ‘’We sent a proposal to the RSTA office requesting them to increase the charges from 250 per person to 300 per person long time back but they completely rejected it saying that same rules are applicable to everyone and we can’t be biased but now they have let someone else start the airport shuttle bus service. The current government always talks about narrowing the gap but where’s the equality? Government is only helping the ones in good position rather than trying to uplift poor people like us.”

Mr. Sonam Chophel, 39, Chairman and founder of the Bhutan Taxi association stated that ‘’Earlier, a similar bus service was initiated but after few months it probably ran into loss because such services were never introduced ever again.

I can guarantee that the same thing will happen with this service because there are people who need to wake up at 3 in the morning to make it to the airport. Do you think that the bus service will be available at such time?  And most of the people are always in hurry on reaching the airport; do you think they will wait until the bus arrives? Whereas, in our case, we have flexi timing.’’

Karma Wangchuk, Director for Department of Air transport said, ‘’I think that airport taxi services will not face any loss as such because it’s not like every passenger will choose only shuttle bus service to travel, there will be passengers who would still prefer taxi for some reasons.”

The Airport taxi service association has 34 airport taxi drivers as of now who were carefully selected by the BTA committee. Tshering Gyeltshen is one of the drivers from Airport taxi service who is equally frustrated as his other friends are about the shuttle bus service.

He says that ‘’Most of the Bhutanese who come from abroad comes with huge luggage but we still charge them only 1200 whereas we charge 1600 to other tourists since they want sightseeing on the way and moreover we come back to airport without any passengers. I feel that the shuttle bus is also overcharging in the sense that, regular transport bus ticket doesn’t even cost Nu.100 but this is charging 200 without door to door service

Bhutan taxi association will soon be conducting a meeting whereupon this issue will be discussed and a complaint will be filed to the concerned authority.

Kinzang Wangdi the owner of the services said that around 800 passengers in around 8 flights come every day but his three buses can each carry only 32 or a total of 96 in a day. He said that the main aim of the bus service is to encourage use of public transport and reduce individual vehicle use.

He said his three buses ferried a total of only 300 passengers in three weeks.

For passengers the bus has come as a good option as the airport taxis, despite their claims, are known to regularly overcharge even Bhutanese passengers with no fare control. Bargaining is also not possible as none of the taxis in the airport go below the high and often illegal fare which unaware tourists pay leaving Bhutanese passengers either stranded or being forced to pay an illegal fare.

The Bus service has received positive approval from many Bhutanese on social media mainly due to overcharging by airport taxis.

Thinley, a Bhutanese passenger said that Bhutan’s airport taxis in that sense are even worse than taxis in Delhi and Bangkok where at at least fares are regulated.

About Karma Chuki Namgyel

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