x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

First, water taxis, and now taxis with water

Hot and bothered? Soon you will be able to cool off by purchasing a bottle of ice-cold mineral water in a Dubai taxi.

DUBAI // Hot and bothered? Soon you will be able to cool off by purchasing a bottle of ice-cold mineral water in a Dubai taxi. The Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC) is to install mini-fridges in 350 van and saloon-style airport taxis for a three-month trial. The coolers will carry six 500ml bottles, which will be on sale to passengers for Dh1 each. The service could be extended to more taxis if it is a success.

Abdul Aziz Malik, the chief executive officer of the taxi corporation, describing the idea as a world first, said the cost of the water would be added to the overall charge for the trip. "It is a unique service," he said. "When passengers come from the airport, they are thirsty. It is also good for people who travel from Dubai to Sharjah or other emirates - especially in the UAE weather." The taxis will be modified to fit the fridges, which will be installed between the front seats, and it is hoped the modified taxis will hit the roads before the end of the year.

"DTC will also track all the daily sales and manage the transactions made," Mr Malik said. "The performance of the operation will be monitored with a view to improving the service offered." The Dubai Taxi Corporation has been working on the project for two years with Al Ain Mineral Water Company. Taxi users welcomed the plan. "Absolutely, it will work," said Prateek Chaudhry, a frequent taxi user who runs a Dubai-based media company. Mr Chaudhry has lived in the Emirates for seven years but does not own a car so relies on taxis and the Metro to commute.  "It's great they [the Dubai Taxi Corporation] are not charging a premium for the service. Tourists in this country always carry a bottle when they walk. Even for residents - now you don't have to look out for a gas station or ask the cab driver to pull over and then stay thirsty when he misses it," he said. Most taxi drivers said they wanted to see how the cooler was installed before commenting. "If the company asks me, of course I will agree," said Asghar Yusuf, from Pakistan. "But it would have been better if they did it in summer, when everyone is more thirsty." Drivers were concerned about customer expectations. "What if the customer wants more bottles? Where will we get more when the cooler bottles are over?" Mr Yusuf asked. Both the Roads and Transport Authority and Al Ain Mineral Water Company said the trial would resolve any questions that cropped up. Fasahat Beg, the general manager of Al Ain Mineral Water Company, which will supply and install the water and the fridges, said a team would oversee the project to manage water stocks in the taxis, check the maintenance of the coolers and monitor safety measures in vehicles. "An integrated work team has been formed to carry out this project with DTC and deliver it on time," he said.  Al Ain Mineral Water Company is owned by Emirates Foodstuff and Mineral Water Company. The bottles will carry the logo of the Roads and Transport Authority and the Dubai Taxi Corporation along with customer service telephone numbers. rtalwar@thenational.ae