CHENNAI: Private cab aggregators Ola and Uber set up kiosks at Chennai airport on Wednesday, sparking protest from nearly 300 pre-paid taxi operators who feared their livelihood would be at stake.
The kiosks were set up on Wednesday after the Airport Authority of India (AAI) tied up with the two app-based cab operators to allow cab bookings from kiosks, thus giving air passengers a new option to travel from airport.
Chennai Airport Director G Chandramouli said that this would help air passengers book a cab through the kiosks located at the airport, which would reduce the hassle of waiting or moving out for hailing such app-based cabs.
However, prepaid taxi operators and call-taxi operators have opposed the move vehemently. The former staged a protest, and nearly 300 of them were detained at a marriage hall near the airport, where they are staging a hunger protest.
Chennai Airport Prepaid Meter Taxi Owner-Driver Union secretary M V Sukumar and treasurer K Parasuraman said the move would affect the livelihood of more than 1,000 families.
“We changed from age-old Ambassador cars to Swift Dezire by taking a loan of `9 lakh from State Bank of India, Mylapore branch, as per AAI’s instruction. How can they ditch us now?,” said Sukumar.
Taxi operators, too are fuming over the alleged lack of level-playing field to compete with the two cab aggregators. “We got the contract through tender paying `45 lakh a month as rent. The charges have been fixed. But Ola and Uber have to pay only `15 lakh for operating from the airport, that too without going through the tender process,” said marketing manager of Fast Track APA Mohanraj.
“We urged the AAI to fix the fare at `150 for first 4 km which was rejected. Now, Ola and Uber are charging `60 for the first 4 km. There is no level playing field,” he said. In the last seven years, Fast Track, the leading firm before the entry of the app-based aggregators, has paid `40 crore as licence fee for operating from the airport, said Mohanraj.
Fast Track’s business has been dwindling ever since Ola and Uber started operating from the airport. Earlier, even when these cabs were operating outside the airport, its ridership had come down from 2,500 to 1,200 per day. Now, after the kiosks are set up, Mohanraj said the company feared the ridership could fall further to 600-700 per day.
P R Samy of the Call Taxi Drivers and Owners Union said the airport director has stated that Ola and Uber kiosks are introduced on a trial basis. “However, we don’t believe it. This affect the livelihood of around 1,000 families,” he added. Both Ola and Uber have sought parking lots for 25 vehicles each inside the airport, said Samy.
However, many airport passengers have welcomed the move. “It gives us choice and the fares are much cheaper,” said Rajesh, a regular flier. Murugesh, an Ola operation executive, who is overseeing the operations at the airport kiosk said they had 40 per cent additional booking on Wednesday.
Similarly, an Uber executive said they had a booking of 500 rides from the airport on the first day. It is learnt that both would introduce attractive schemes for fliers. Chandramouli said that the move to have Ola and Uber operate from the Chennai Airport was taken by the headquarters. “It is more or less like having more players in the field to make it competitive,” he said.