A reader alerted us today about a story that broke in Malaysia about the paddling of Premium Taxis, even at the official Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Taxi Counters.
The counter agents allegedly quote high fares without noting it is for a premium taxi while standard taxi cabs are readily available.
A story that was published in The Malaysian Insider (access here) documents one such occasion where a passenger approached the taxi counter and asked for a cab. He knew the fare they quoted him was too high and the counter agent said it was for a Premium Taxi and upon pressing her for a regular cab (in Malaysia they are called Budget Taxis) she lied saying there are none available. The customer then went outside where plenty of such Budget Taxis were waiting.
“The staff at the counter quoted a figure higher than the usual fare. When I questioned the difference, she said the fare was for a premium taxi,” he said.
Raj said he refused to succumb to the trick because it was not the first time he had been told by someone at the counter to take a premium taxi when he wished to take a budget taxi.
“Knowing their gimmicks, I insisted on a budget taxi and that I would wait. The woman was unhappy. She then pretended to ask her colleague if there were a budget tax available. I saw her winking at her colleague before she told me that she had received instructions from the gate that only premium taxis were available.
There is no excuse for this sort of behavior and it’s obvious there is some sort of a silent agreement, likely associated with a financial kickback for paddling these Premium Taxis.
Another problem is that the employee became defensive and aggressive during the course of the conversation.
“I challenged her and asked for these instructions and she got impatient. I told her again to just give me a budget taxi. She was clearly upset about this and warned me that the fare was not refundable,” he said.
Raj said that was unfair because the customer had the right to insist on the taxi service that he wanted.
“If the service is not provided, the taxi operator has to refund the fare. The warning that it is not so is unacceptable,” he said.
Raj claimed that when he went to the taxi stand, he counted 11 budget taxis waiting at the gate.
This is truly unacceptable. When being called out on these shenanigans the employee should apologize and send the passenger on his way instead of becoming angry. Such practices have no place at a customer service desk at KLIA.
Raj said he had reported the incident to the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) and other authorities.
A SPAD spokesman said Raj’s complaint had been forwarded to the klia2 bus and taxi counter services concessionaire appointed by Malaysia Airport Holdings Bhd (MAHB). “SPAD will be holding a meeting with both the concessionaire and MAHB on September 21 to address the complaint and improvise the queue management system,” she said.
The spokesman also said the customer must always be given the taxi class of his or her preference.
Let’s hope the authorities will take appropriate action but I highly doubt much will happen since this modus operadi is pretty common in Malaysia. There are plenty of signs everywhere at KLIA to beware of taxi touts and individuals offering ‘Tours’ in the airport. Well, if the airport staff itself engages in such dishonest practices I seriously don’t see much difference to be honest.
Singapore has premium taxi options as well but they are clearly visible and the passenger can refuse them straight away and wait for a regular cab. The problem is if nobody wants these cabs they occupy the space and no other taxi can replace them in the meanwhile.
When going to KL I prefer to use the Airport Ekspres Train (see more infos here). The service is fast, reliable and convenient. It arrived at the Sentral Station next to a variety of hotels (Hilton KL, Le Meridien KL, Aloft and soon St. Regis). There are also plenty of Taxis available (regular ones) available if you need to go elsewhere in KL.
I really don’t like airports or hotels that push premium taxis on the customers. For a short transfer I really don’t need a nice car that costs 30% more than a totally acceptable Toyota. I strongly encourage all travelers to always insist on a regular cab unless a premium Taxi is what they really want. In this case you might also just try your luck with UBER.