ABU DHABI // Passengers will pay up to Dh21 extra for a trip from the airport after the introduction of a new, luxury fleet of taxi vans.
Flag fall for the 150 black Mercedes vans will increase from Dh3.50 to Dh25, but the rate per kilometre will be the same.
The taxis will be available around the clock at Terminals 1, 2 and 3. At Terminal 2, used by budget airlines, there will also be 15 Toyota Camry cabs with a flagfall of Dh20.
There are two vans for passengers with special needs, equipped with electronic wheelchair lifts and restraints.
The fleet is planned to expand to 200 in two to three months, to be supplemented by silver taxis if necessary.
Mercedes-Benz Vito vans can accommodate seven passengers and are equipped with an online tracking system, a speed limiter and updated GPS facilities.
The fleet runs on green diesel fuel and was unofficially launched on November 20.
On Sunday, the taxi regulator TransAD announced the rollout of the vans to be operated by Emirates Transport.
“This project took three years to complete,” said Mohamed Al Hosani, director of franchise and licensing at TransAD.
“If you come to think of it, it’s still the cheapest. This is a totally new service in the UAE because we offer Mercedes Vito vehicles at the airport.”
Mohammed Al Qamzi, general manager at TransAD, said: “If you see our rates, they are very low. It will be an issue for the people who are working at the airport but for passengers, it is reasonably priced and cheaper compared to taxis at Heathrow Airport.”
The elderly and handicapped can obtain discount cards from the Ministry of Social Affairs. Card holders will receive reductions of 25 to 50 per cent on fares.
Waleed Al Mehairi, executive director of transport and leasing at Emirates Transport, said he hoped the taxis would soon accept payment by credit card.
“I cannot give you a specific date but I hope it will be in February,” Mr Al Mehairi said.
“It is now under process and we have already finalised it with the bank. The next stage is the installation of the device.”
Airport drivers will work 12-hour shifts and a full fleet will be available during peak hours.
Multilingual drivers with a knowledge of Abu Dhabi and the UAE have been trained for the service. About 10 per cent of them are women.
“Abu Dhabi has been experiencing strong passenger traffic growth and taxi demand is about proportionate to this growth,” said Jacob Mathew, director of Emirates Car Centre at Emirates Transport.
Taxis at the airport make an estimated total of 1,600 journeys a day, said Mr Al Qamzi.
“Sometimes, it can reach up to 1,800 to 2,000 during the holiday season,” he said. “If there is an increased demand for airport taxis, we can augment it using the existing silver taxis.
“The silver taxis are not allowed at the airport except when there is a shortage. We have our people there to regulate it and will determine if there is a need for silver taxis or not.”
Arriving passengers are not required to book in advance.