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Beijing acts on complaints against airport cabbies

By Xu Wei (China Daily)

09:03, May 03, 2013

Passengers with luggage wait for taxis in cold wind at Beijing Capital International Airport on Feb 3. (Jiang Guijia / For China Daily)

Drivers 'bargain over fares at night, force passengers to share taxis'

Passenger anger at taxi drivers bargaining over night-time fares at Beijing Capital International Airport led to the city's transport authority to issue a new regulation on Thursday on handling complaints against cabbies.

Drivers operating at the airport late at night have also forced passengers to share a cab, despite campaigns by transport authorities to improve taxi services, according to a number of passengers.

In the regulation that took effect on Thursday, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport states that commuters can use letters, e-mails or phone calls to file complaints about taxi services.

The regulation also states that the party receiving the complaints, including taxi companies or transport authorities, must respond within 15 days.

A taxi company could be fined as much as 28,000 yuan ($4,540) if the number of complaints filed by passengers against its drivers in six months is three times, or higher than the average.

Taxis are the preferred choice for passengers arriving at the airport during the night, as the Beijing Subway Airport Express stops running at about 11 pm, with airport shuttle buses only running to the Xidan commercial area and Gongzhufen.

Ma Xiaolin, a veteran journalist and blogger in Beijing, wrote on his micro blog on Sunday that taxi drivers at the airport are asking passengers to share a taxi "with an arrogant attitude" and asking for higher fares from passengers before dawn.

"I learned that those drivers are there every night and nobody seemed to have intervened," he wrote.

Some cabbies at the airport even offer self-made invoices to passengers and lift car trunk lids to avoid monitoring cameras from capturing their license plate numbers, the Beijing News reported on Thursday.

Li Shengbo, a spokesman for the airport, said there is a taxi shortage there during the night, with drivers bargaining over fares a longstanding problem. "But we are only a business corporation and are not authorized to supervise the operation of taxis," he said.

Li called for closer coordination between the law enforcement team from the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport and the airport to better supervise taxi drivers.

"The problem can only be solved through closer coordination on supervision efforts between us and the supervision authorities in Beijing," he said.

A shortage of taxis before dawn at the airport has long been a problem, as drivers are unwilling to drive to the airport at night, Li said.

Passengers charged more than the normal fare can report the taxi plate number or the driver's operating license number to the service hotline — 96123 — set up by the transport authority.

Liu Nuo, a 29-year-old Beijing resident who makes frequent business trips by air, arrived at the airport at around 1 am on Wednesday and was shocked to see a large number of people waiting in line for a taxi, with no cabs arriving.

Liu said the airport shuttle bus was still operating at that time but was going in a different direction to her home.

She decided against waiting in line and asked her family to pick her up.

Beijing Capital International Airport is the world's second-largest airport based on yearly passenger throughput, with some 80 million individual trips in 2012.

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