BY LARA OZAKI

Journal Staff

 

A recent incident brought to the Journal may be just the tip of the iceberg of airport taxi issues. Coming back to Guam from a recent trip, a Journal source, who wished to remain anonymous, witnessed taxi drivers from different companies in an argument over passengers.

“As we walked out of the airport, we were approached and asked if we wanted a taxi. We said we did. I wasn’t sure if the guy was a taxi driver initially or if he was going to get a taxi to come up to get us. He asked us where we were going, and we told him.

“The other man standing there was from Miki Taxi. He was clearly upset and told the first man that he had taken two fares. ‘Oh all right,’ the first man said. ‘You take the one to the Hilton.’ We were the longer ride. I think he said that because we could understand what was being said; they were speaking in English.

“I asked the first man what company he was with, and he said ‘Wave Taxi.’ I asked him if this happened a lot — meaning the argument over fares — and he said, ‘All the time,’” the source said.

The A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam, is serviced by five licensed taxi operators: Independent Taxi Association of Guam, Miki Taxi, Wave Taxi Service, Resort Taxi and Guam United Taxi Services.

In 2014, 56,454 passengers were reported to have been transported by licensed airport taxi operators, said airport marketing administrator Rolenda Lujan Faasuamalie.

All taxi services operating at the airport must obtain a business taxi permit per vehicle with the airport authority. The permit application requires a current business license from the Department of Revenue and Taxation, a driver’s license with authorization to operate as a taxi driver, current registration and insurance with the airport authority as an additional insured, an annual permit fee and a decal fee.

“I’ve been in the taxi business for 21 years on Guam. If I was not in the taxi business and were to rate the services here on Guam, I could only give [a score of] 20 points out of 100 because there is no system, there is no regulation,” said Hong Soon Im, president of Miki Taxi Service. He said he goes to the airport to check on the situation nearly every day but is disappointed every time.

“When you go [to the airport], it looks like a fish market. They’re yelling, ‘Taxi! Taxi!’ and arguing, ‘No, this is my turn!’” he said. Arguments between taxi drivers and dispatchers from different companies are common and difficult to regulate, he said.

Im said he has received many complaints from customers that taxi drivers are arguing and fighting in front of the airport.

“When one of the other taxi dispatchers tried to cheat and my dispatcher complained, he punched my dispatcher and we caught it all on video,” he said.

Im said he has addressed the management and the board of directors of the airport, but nothing has been done to resolve it. There are political issues, he said, that prevent the airport and other government officials from taking action on the existing conditions for taxis at the airport.

Established in 1995, Miki Taxi started servicing the airport in January 2013. With 146 taxi drivers and 67 shuttle drivers, Miki is the largest taxi company on Guam. Im said he tries his best to raise the standard of taxi service on the island, but it is difficult as other taxi companies do not share his opinions.

“I try my best to keep the quality. I spend our money and [equipped the taxis with] a credit card machine, Wi-Fi service, everything I can do. By law there is no regulation on airport taxis,” Im said. “[The other companies] don’t have ID, they don’t have uniforms, they don’t issue receipts. It’s not professional at all.”

Mar Oasy, owner of Wave Taxi Service, and Eduardo Suarez, president of Independent Taxi Association, both said there were no issues between taxi companies at the airport but that there are too many taxis stationed.

“As of now there’s no issue at the airport. … Every company rotates for picking up customers,” Oasy said. “Every company has a dispatcher that can assist the customers.”

Wave Taxi Service has 18 taxis serving the airport, Oasy said. With four other taxi companies, he said the biggest issue is that there are not enough parking spaces in the arrival area of the airport.

“There is one side dedicated for taxis, but it’s filled up. The bus spaces on the other side, too, it’s full,” he said.

Started in 2000, Independent Taxi Association is the oldest taxi company serving the airport. It stations 22 taxis at the airport.

“So far there are no major arguments [between taxi companies]. Sometimes there are problems, but they’re minor,” Suarez said.

There is not enough business to go around to all of the taxis waiting at the airport, he said. On average the Independent taxi drivers take around three to five passenger groups during a six-hour period. With many of the passengers going to hotels in Tumon, the ride may cost around $20–$25, Suarez said, which he said is not enough for the drivers to make a living.

Each company is allocated four parking spaces by the airport although Suarez said he estimates around 15 to 20 taxis from each company are at the airport.

“[There are] too many companies at the airport with five companies. There are 80 cabs or 100 cabs at the airport,” Suarez said.

Im agreed.

“If there are 10 cabs for each of the five companies, and you go to the airport you have to wait 49 turns. This kind of business situation is very bad,” he said.

There may be another company interested in serving the airport soon, Im said, which will make the situation worse and will not benefit the quality of customer service taxis can provide at the airport.

“We have more than 1.2 million tourists coming to Guam [a year]. If they don’t have a good impression starting at the beginning [of their trip] at the airport, it is very bad for tourists. I really don’t know why people keep coming to Guam because we’re not ready to [provide good] service for the tourists,” Im said. mbj