Living near the airport has its pros and cons. While a trip to and from the airport is a breeze, taking a taxi back from the airport is an entirely different experience.
Whenever I tell the driver my destination after boarding, the response often is stony black face or worst yet, sarcasm on a couple of occassions.
The reason is because they feel that they are not getting enough mileage for their long wait at the airport. They would prefer to pick up someone heading to the city or the outermost corners of the island. Looks like even the airport surcharge is not enough for them.
To make up for their disappointment, I often give them a generous tip.
Thankfully, such trips happen only once or twice a year when the entire family goes on holiday together. Otherwise, one of us will do the airport run.
Salvation at hand
In recent years, this is no longer an issue. It’s not because the taxi drivers have somehow realised the folly of their ways but because of the rise of ride-hailing services.
The advent of Uber and Grab means that we can just click and book a car easily. In under 10 minutes, a car will arrive and the driver often helps with loading the luggage — something that taxi drivers don’t usually do because they claimed to be afraid of hurting themselves.
The ride is pleasant, the driver relaxed and me, the passenger, stress-free on the way home.
Of course, during peak periods, the wait can be a little longer. There again, does it really matter? The taxi queue would also be equally long.
By next week, Uber will no longer exist in Southeast Asia. Grab is taking over of Uber to become the region’s biggest player. In the run up, regular customers have already started to feel the pinch.
There seems to be fewer discount codes and promotions, leading to more costly rides. In reality, this is a better reflection of actual prices. Otherwise, the ride-hailing service providers will continue to bleed and remain unprofitable. If that happens, once their funding runs out, so will the services and customers will suffer.
The buzz is that other players are looking at filling the void created by the merger. The highly popular GoJek in Indonesia has been reported to be thinking of setting up shop in Singapore. Singapore-based carpooling app Ryde has expanded to private-hire car service.
Change in commuting
Overall, Grab and the likes have made a difference in the way I commute. Instead of heading to the taxi stand when I arrive at my destination airport, I will just whip up the Grab or Uber, or even Lyft, app in my smartphone and book my ride.
The only challenge is communication in non-English speaking countries. When I was in Bangkok last week, the Grab driver and I were lost in translation. We were messaging each other at the airport but somehow, when he said that he had arrived, he was nowhere to be found near me. Turned out that he was in the departure area while we were waiting at the arrival area.
The lesson learnt is to be near someone who understands English and speaks the local language when waiting for a ride.
Another experience is that Uber can be cheaper than taxi in California. A taxi trip from San Francisco International Airport to San Jose comes with a 50-percent markup so that the driver can return to San Francisco. There’s no such markup with a Uber ride so it’s a straight upfront 50 percent savings.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed Grab and Uber services so far. Long may they live.