Muscat: The often contentious fares while availing a taxi from Muscat International Airport and other airports will be soon resolved with the government's new decision, which will come into force from October 1.
The Ministry of Transport, Communications, and Information Technology (MoTCIT) on Sunday decided to grant licenses to two companies to operate airport taxis, which will benefit inbound air travellers, including tourists.
Currently, the fare meter for an airport taxi starts from RO2.500, and each kilometre costs 400 baisas up to 40 km. After that, 200 baisas are charged for every kilometre, while the mobile app-based on-demand taxis are prohibited from picking up travellers from the airport.
According to airport users, a taxi fare from the Muscat International Airport to Ruwi and Muttrah will cost between RO 15-20 (off-peak traffic hours), while generally, an on-demand taxi fare to Muscat from Ruwi costs only around RO6.
"I recently availed a taxi from the airport to a hotel in Al Khuwair, and it cost me around RO10 for a business client, which is too exorbitant, but I didn't have many options then. The app-based taxi operators are not allowed to pick up inbound passengers due to resistance from the airport taxi operators," said Selvaraj Kumar, an executive of a distribution company.
Speaking to the Observer, Harith al Maqbali - Chief Executive Officer - OTaxi, "This long-awaited decision is highly welcome, and it will be costlier than the on-demand services but less than the current airport taxi fares." The designated airport taxi operators claim stiff competition from illegal transportation. The high taxi fares force passengers to resort to illegal transportation, which is banned under the Land Transportation Law.
Illegal taxis are fined RO200 and above per violation. It may be noted that several private vehicle owners have claimed that they have been subject to strict scrutiny and fines from the officials of the ministry and the police at the airport.
On Monday, the ministry granted licenses to manage taxi services at the airports of the Sultanate of Oman. Cloud World Trading's 'Otaxi' and Ubar Smart Cities Company's Oman Taxi will offer trips at fixed prices determined before the trip. The fares will be announced in the coming days before October 1.
To ensure the privacy and security of the user, the two companies will offer facilities such as route tracking and monitoring systems.
The ministry said Sunday's decision followed the companies' meeting the requirements of the Land Transport Law and its plans to include all taxi owners at airports to operate under app-based operators to improve the public transportation system in the Sultanate of Oman.
MoTCIT urged taxi drivers operating at airports to join the licensed applications, and the service provision at airports will be limited to these two companies.
There are eight app-based services, including one for women taxi drivers.
The ministry stated that the first phase begins on October 1 and includes taxis operating at the airports of the Sultanate of Oman, while the second phase will cover tourist complexes, hotels, commercial centres, and ports beginning from November 1.
The third phase will cover white and orange street taxis from January 1, which are currently mandated to operate as per a mobile-based meter called Aber.
This will coincide with the ministry's launch of the "Aber app," a smart application covering Orange and White Street taxis.