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'Clone' cabs con airport passengers

By Liu Meng (Global Times)

09:02, September 24, 2012

Drivers of fake taxis, indistinguishable from real cabs, are allegedly scamming passengers at Beijing Capital International Airport, possibly in collusion with airport taxi dispatchers.

The scam was revealed after a French businessman was charged 451 yuan ($71) for a 30-kilometer journey from the airport to a Holiday Inn hotel in Xicheng district on September 16.

However, airport police said Sunday there is little they can do to stop these fake "clone" taxis, as they are not disturbing order at the airport.

The Frenchman, who would only give his online name, Skornjr, told the Global Times Sunday that he will not sue over the 450 yuan, but said he suspected the driver colluded with airport staff.

Skornjr's colleague posted a photo of the receipt on her Sina microblog Thursday, which showed the taxi drove 153.8 kilometers in 37 minutes.

"When I waited for a taxi, an airport dispatcher came over, asking in English if I knew how much it was to the destination," he said, "I said 'I'm not sure but it must be around 100 yuan.' But the staff [member] said it was probably 300 to 350 [yuan]."

He added that the dispatcher called a taxi over and said something to the driver like "call me later" once he was in the car.

When he saw the receipt, he guessed it was too expensive, but believed as he took the cab from the official line aided by an airport employee, it was impossible that there could be such a big scam, Skornjr said.

The hotline from Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport confirmed the taxi license plate number on the receipt does not exist, but the receipt, which is genuine, is from Jinshishun Taxi Company in Pinggu district, the Beijing News reported Saturday.

Jinshishun could not be reached Sunday, but told the Beijing News the taxi must be a fake, and they have called the police to investigate.

Beijing airport police started to clamp down on illegal taxis since August, the Beijing Times reported on September 17.

"The illegal taxis we caught didn't include these fake-licensed ones," said Pan Jianqiang, vice director with the eastern terminal area's police station.

"It's because we're responsible for fighting disorder in the airport, but the clone taxis wait in the regular taxi queue. What they violate is the regulation of the taxi industry," he told the Global Times.

Pan also said that since no one reported the suspected taxi dispatcher, police have not started an investigation yet.

Other Beijing residents have suspected there is collusion between airport dispatchers and these 'clone' cabs.

Zhang Can, 26, told the Global Times that in April last year she was charged 130 yuan for a trip that usually costs at most 80 yuan.

"I was in the middle of the queue when the dispatcher called a taxi for me," said Zhang, adding that on the way home, the female driver threatened her, saying that she ''taught a lesson'' to passengers who quarreled with her.

Wang Hejie, a Beijing taxi driver, said as these taxis cannot be distinguished from real ones, it is easy to cheat passengers.

"The driver installs equipment in the meter and uses a remote control to inflate the fare," he said.

Wang suggested that passengers surf the Internet to find out the distance from the airport to their destination and the best route to take.

"If you find the distance number on the receipt is much bigger than that of the suggested route, call to complain about the driver," he said.

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