Sunday, 1 March 2015

New Multan Airport targets March liftoff

New Multan International Airport Pakistan from Shujaat Azeem on Vimeo.

Pakistan's 'new' Multan Airport will finally... hopefully... be operational later this month.

The airport has been fraught with challenges. As recently as February 10th, the airport was set to be inaugurated before the end of February. While this target was not met, there was a final inspection of the facilities on February 27th.

Arrival of passengers on the first test
flight at Multan Airport today
Today saw the landing of the first test flight on the tarmac at Multan Airport, and an announcement that the airport will be operational sometime during May. Let's hope.

The new airport was apparently completed last year, but a lack of power prevented it from becoming operational (there is now a new grid station).

Previous stumbling blocks included cancellation of plans for a new greenfield construction, due to lack of funds, and modified plans to replace the existing terminal instead.

First bags!
Test flight photos by Saqlain Kazmi
via @raisinganchor
Along with new runways and an ILS (instrument landing system), the essentially new airport will boost capacity from 100,000 to 1 million passengers a year.

Information on transportation options for the new terminal are hard to find, even for us. For now, expect to take a taxi, and keep any eye on our Multan International Airport (MUX) transportation guide for updates.

The Mango Season  | Explored In addition to passenger services, the new airport will double mango exports from the region from 10,000 to 20,000 tons (how many planes does it take to fly 10,000 mangos?).

For more pictures, see the Multan Airport Facebook page.

Related resources:
Multan International Airport (MUX) transportation guide
New Multan airport to be inaugurated this month (March): Shujaat Azeem
Luck to smile on Multan in March
PM likely to open New Multan Airport on (February) 27th
Upgraded Multan airport likely to open next month (February)
New Multan Airport to complete by end of 2014
Qatar Airlines to start flights from Multan to Europe

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A Golden Bear in absentia for new Taxi film

Taxis in Tehran
Jafar Panani's new film, Taxi, premiered in competition at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival. On February 15, Panahi was awarded the Golden Bear for the film in absentia.

Taxi is a 2015 Iranian drama film starring and directed by Panahi. The documentary-like film is set in a Tehran taxi, driven by Panahi. The passengers, played by non-professional actors whose identities remain anonymous, confide to their taxi driver about their lives. The resultant film has been described as "a portrait of the Iranian capital".

The award was collected in Berlin by Panahi's niece, Hana Saeidi, who also appears in the film. The Iranian film director, screenwriter, and film editor, has been banned from making films and travelling since 2010. Panahi's feature film debut, The White Balloon, won the Caméra d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1995, the first such award won by an Iranian film.

Editor's note: Despite our name, we love honest taxi drivers, and are pleased to bring you this good news taxi story (see the story of how we got our name).

Related resources
Berlin film festival top prize goes to Jafar Panahi's Taxi - CBC
50 Reasons Why Taxi Driver Might Just Be The Greatest Film Of All Time - What Culture
10 Taxi episodes that find heart and humor in a dead-end job - AV Club
Taxi was one wild boozy ride... Danny DeVito recalls life on the classic sitcom - Daily Mail
Top 10 films about taxi drivers - Top 10 Films
Top 10 taxi drivers in movies - Harmony Cars blog
Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKA) transportation guide
Tehran Mehrabad International Airport (THR) transportation guide

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Ridesharing NYC airport choppers take off

Great photo of Gotham Air choppers from their website
Gotham Air is now offering Manhattan business people and commuters an opportunity to skip street traffic and take to the air to reach John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK) or Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in a matter of minutes with their new helicopter service. Starting this week, rides will go as low as $99 for those beta testing their website and thereafter fares could be on par or slightly higher than taking a taxi.

An app has been developed which enables potential customers to see which flights are available and which ones are still on standby waiting for the maximum number of seats to be filled before take-off.

Don't see a time you like? Request a new flight time, and as soon as 3 others book, your trip is confirmed. We see a Twitter hashtag taking hold.

Passengers head down to the Manhattan helipad to wait in the Gotham lounge before boarding the chopper with noise canceling headphones for their quick trip to the airport in record time.

This has the potential to once again make a small dent in NYC's taxi monopoly with more consumer choice. No word yet on flights from these airports, or on LaGuardia yet.

Related Resources
What It’s Like to Fly from Manhattan to JFK in Less Than Seven Minutes - Condé Nast Traveler
"Uber for Helicopters" Is Gross, Absurd and I Want to Use It Every Day - Gizmodo
Gotham Air is like Uber for helicopters in New York [w/video] - Autoblog

Monday, 9 February 2015

Orbitz drops Skiplagged lawsuit


We recently told you about the lawsuits launched by United Airlines and Orbitz against Skiplagged. Here's the story, in case you missed it: Going into court with dirty hands? Airline and online travel site sue
Today it was reported that Orbitz has dropped its lawsuit. Here are the details:
The jury is still out on the United Airlines suit.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Uber vs taxi: news update

Regular readers of this blog will know that we have been covering the emergence of how ridesharing companies (such as Uber, Lyft, Sidecar) are shaking up taxi drivers and the regulators who govern them. While important, we don't want the Uber vs taxi story to overtake our blog, so we are bringing you broader news updates instead.

2014-01-26 | 23-52-16
creative commons image, joakimformo on Flickr
Here's a recap of recent ridesharing stories that are worth reading:

Hard-Charging Uber Tries Olive Branch - NY Times

Uber stands by drivers as Montreal seizes Uber cars - Mashable

Google vs. Uber: The Future of Ride Sharing - Bloomberg

Don't overload Uber, Lyft with new regulations

Vancouver fleshing out new taxi code: council at odds on how to regulate firms like Uber

Geico launches insurance product for Uber drivers

UberXL to carry larger groups in SUVs or minivans

Uber now complies with India’s two-factor authentication requirement, calls it unnecessary and burdensome

Uber Will Add Panic Button And Location/Journey Sharing In India On February 11

The Sleeping Giant: Uber’s Expansion into Greater China

Uber announces kitten delivery service in Australia, cat lovers go wild

Put to the test: Taxi v Uber

Almost 10,000 People Have Signed This Uber Driver's Petition to Add Tips to the App

Related resources
Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants
Canadian Taxi Monopoly is attempting to curb consumer choice
Taxi Truths campaign puts lipstick on a pig
Dear Canadian Taxi Monopoly: your Uber Boogie Man doesn't scare me
Security issues threaten to define Uber in India

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Going into court with dirty hands? Airline and online travel site sue

by Todd Romaine

Ever heard of before? If not, you should definitely check it out. It promises the lowest online airline fares through the use of some creative programming that allows travellers to fly to their desired particular destination at a discounted rate by pretending to fly somewhere else when they book. It does seem odd but routine that flying a shorter distance is many times more expensive than flights at a further distance. The most expensive flight options are direct flights, followed then by flights that stop in numerous locations (milk run) before your final destination. And in many circumstances you need to burn up more airline fuel flying all over the place to get that cheaper ticket.

This is where comes into play... it searches for the cheapest milk run options and then you need to attempt to get off the plane in your desired location rather than carrying on to your ticketed destination. This requires you to travel with carry-on luggage only and quickly de-board and vanish into thin air. An example would be that you need to fly from Seattle to Minneapolis but find it cheaper to fly from Seattle-Minneapolis-Houston and therefore book the latter option. You show up at the airport and collect your boarding passes to Houston, cognizant you have no plans to go there.

Orbitz and United Airlines are now suing because the website's circumvention around the system makes it seem unethical and could result in continued airline delays for missing passengers and empty seats. Yet arguably the system that charges people more money for going shorter distances seem unethical in itself.

A crowdsurfing site has already raised 50K to help fight off the lawsuit and to continue its business to provide travellers with cheaper flight options. Seasoned online travellers have already worked the system for years but has now raised notoriety for the practice and hence why a legal battle is now brewing.

If anything comes from this, perhaps airlines need to recalibrate how they tabulate traveler fares so that individual users pay the true cost for traveling and not zig zagging around the world to reduce costs for a direct flight.

Tip: follow @Skiplagged on Twitter - and @SkiplaggedDeals for the best hidden city deals

Related Resources

Thursday, 1 January 2015

What counts as a country visited?

by Todd Romaine

globe road
If you missed it, see our 2014 New Year's post,
How Many Countries Have You Visited?
Ready, set go... 2015 is here, time to add to your country tally!

For the many international travellers that like collecting countries to quantify or reaffirm their status as a seasoned globetrotter, this is the time of year when the previous year is tallied, and the year to come is planned out.

As we kick off 2015, we return to the country-counting subject with a closer examination of the oft-debated question of "what counts as a country?"

As you commence this year's travels, please note the following commonly held ground rules:
  • A layover at an airport or an airport hotel without leaving the physical premise does NOT count as a new country. Even if it means collecting a passport stamp and walking by the taxi rank. If you catch a taxi, bus, or subway into the nearest town where non-airport, everyday civilian activities take place then it counts. Even if it is only for a few hours, chalk it up as another country with the caveat of a very limited snapshot of time.
  • A cruise ship stop in various ports and islands DOES count as individual countries even it just means walking along the dock or beachside tourist areas. Even if the islands in question belong to a country on the other side of the planet, they count. However note if the islands are part of the same political jurisdiction, you cannot double, triple count etc. An example would be the Cook Islands, a New Zealand possession spread out over a huge geographical distance cannot be counted multiple times if you visit several of its islands. The Caribbean is a goldmine to enhance your country count during a cruise. Simple offshore islands in close proximity to the 'mother country' (i.e. within 200 miles) do not get separate country status so do NOT count in your tabulation. This coincides with the international rule of exclusive economic zone status. Therefore, while Prince Edward Island in Canada does NOT count as separate from Canada, Cocos and Christmas Island DO count in respect to Australia, or Svalbard Island with respect to Norway DOES count simply based on geographical distance from the main country.
  • A train through various countries only counts if you physically get out and get into town somewhere outside of non-train activities (i.e. train station). Therefore, listening to your iPod as your train screams through the Luxembourg countryside does NOT count.
  • Flying over a country does NOT count unless you land and leave the airport premises. If you land on an isolated beach somewhere with a helicopter, then technically it DOES count
  • Geographical locations not deemed a country could count. Antarctica counts. Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Western Sahara, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Tibet, Somaliland, Nagorno-Kabarkh, Azafad and arguably ISIS controlled territories all DO count. These locations are in dispute and are politically unique and contentious from the 'mother country'. These treat themselves with their own customs departments, their own flag and militaries and or own governments in exiles. Ficticious or dubious deemed countries such as Sea Island, Swan River, Cascadia do NOT count.
  • Small official countries count such as the Vatican City, Andorra, Singapore, Hong Kong, Aland, Liechenstein all DO count.
  • Swimming or running through one country to the next DOES count. Yes I have swam between Namibia and South Africa along the Orange River with no customs department present and technically this counts.

Check it out: There are numerous tools that can assist you graphically catalogue your travels. The newest country-tracking tool is #Travelstoke, created by the globetrotting folks at Matador Network. Once you create your personal #Travelstoke map, you can publish it to your social media networks, such as Facebook.

If you have any technical questions on country counting feel free to contact us. Happy 2015 travels!

Related resources
Introducing the #Travelstoke World Map: Create yours today! - Matador Network
How many countries have you visited? - IHateTaxis
Countries of the world: how many have you visited? - interactive list from listchallenges
Where on earth have you been? Create a custom map to show your life's travels - the Guardian

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Spot the deadly fake taxi on your international travels!

Shocking Fake Taxi
Would you be able to pick out a fake taxi in a foreign land, where everything is new to you?
What if you're extremely tired from a long-haul flight? Or you've had too much to drink?
Can you spot the signs that this is a fake taxi?
Tip: right click the picture to open it in a new window. for a close-up view.
Once you have given the picture a good look over scroll down to see the answers below.

It happens all over the world and has resulted in numerous rip-offs, robberies, sexual assaults, kidnapping and murder – taking a fake taxi could be your last trip.

All too often, most assume everything that looks like a taxi must be a taxi and therefore, by default, we numb our minds and jump-in without a second thought. More often than not, our minds are even more trusting of taxis in foreign lands where everything is new or when we have consumed considerable alcohol.

The most likely locations of taking a fake taxi are China, Lebanon, Colombia, Brazil, Belgium, France (Paris), and Nigeria though it has and can literally take place anywhere in the world.

Most fake taxi drivers do it for economic reasons – no insurance, no taxi license, and a cash only system that generates considerable profits.

Other fake taxi drivers have more nefarious objectives, such as:
  • Purposefully rigging their meters to jump wildly (China, Thailand)
  • Counterfeit money laundering (China)
  • Violent robberies (Brazil, Colombia and Namibia)
  • Intent to sexually assault women (Brussels, Paris, Toronto, UK)

How to spot a fake

There are some common things you should look for with respect to fake taxis:
  • Different colour scheme from the dominant registered licensed taxis you see driving about
  • No taxi license in the vehicle
  • Cash only
  • No presence of an actual meter
  • Taxi driver approaches you and encourages you to use their vehicle versus waiting in a queue
  • Physical characteristics (really a judgment call) on whether they look like an official taxi driver
  • Several occupants in the vehicle
  • Displayed photo identification does not match driver's facial features
  • Removable or flimsy taxi sign on roof
  • Substandard working condition
  • Invalid or non-existent license plates
  • Non-existent dispatch system
  • No GPS in vehicle yet such units are readily seen in other taxis in the area you are visiting 7

How to avoid or deal with the fake

Tips on avoiding or dealing with fake taxis:
  • Always travel with a companion, especially if you a woman leaving a bar at the end of the night - a fake taxi driver will be less likely target you if you are less vulnerable (with a companion)
  • Do research on the internet (i.e. beforehand, to familiarize yourself with what official taxi cab companies operate in the city you are visiting OR upon arrival at the airport go to the information desk to ask "what does an official taxi look like?"
  • Always call or book online for a taxi from a licensed company - Google such companies online, or have your hotel call you one (often called a 'radio taxi')
  • If a radio taxi is not available, go to an official taxi queue line near a major hotel, shopping mall etc.
  • The taxi driver should recite your name when picking you up, and if they don't, then they are not the designated pick-up person for you
  • Always sit in the back seat of a taxi to avoid any contentious situation, albeit a legitimate taxi or fake one - you want to be unencumbered should you need to flee
  • If there is a meter present, and it is behaving erratically without a legitimate explanation, if you are in a safe area, ask the driver politely to pull over, place the money on the seat and get out (while this may or may not be a fake taxi, there is a scam going on and best you remove yourself from the situation)
  • Have your cellular phone charged up and ready to either videotape and or call the police at a moment`s notice
  • Carry small change so as to avoid getting fake currency change back - you should also be able to drop the exact fare (or a bit more) on the seat and walk off in a dispute
  • Under all circumstances, where possible, travel with your bags with you in the car and not the trunk (access to the trunk will be used as unfair leverage if you refuse to comply with unreasonable demands)
  • If you are being attacked or placed in a very vulnerable situation, scream or yell to alert nearby people of your plight – this could force the driver to stop his nefarious plans with you
Truth be told, fake taxi drivers are getting more and more clever all the time in order to dupe travelers, but if you follow the above guidelines you should minimize your chances of being in a very unfavourable situation.

Shocking Fake Taxi
To the trained eye this is a fake taxi. It has magnetic removable sign on the door that is slightly misaligned, the top TAXI sign on the roof is out of proportion and the company's logo or dispatch telephone number do not appear on the rear of the vehicle.
So be it, ride it and you'll be unaware that the fare is then mechanically controlled by the driver who will charge at his own will, regardless of the destination or distance. Upon reaching your destination, the shocking high price will be demanded. Hanoi, Vietnam, SE Asia.
Source: Emilio Labrador on flickr (permission requested)

Have a scary story about a fake taxi? Please contact us so we can update our travel pages and alert other future travelers.

Related resources:
Smart travel advice from IHateTaxis:

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Security issues threaten to define Uber in India

Will real and perceived security issues define Uber in India?
creative commons image by scrolleditorial on flickr
by Todd Romaine

Shiv Kumar Yadav, a Uber taxi driver from India accused of raping a passenger this past week, had a history of this same charge three years ago but was acquitted. Whether or not this man is guilty or not, Uber has now been banned in India as a result of its lack of proper security protocol.

More broadly, however, there are numerous actors lobbying governments to shut Uber down and rely on the existing licensed operators versus the more convenient taxi booking app that allows more availability and reduced fares for commuters. They are undoubtedly using this recent example as a broad stroke risk for allowing Uber market entry, even though they are numerous rape cases involving licensed traditional taxis which never warrant calls to shut down the entire taxi service for not properly vetting proper employees.

Truth be told, in most parts of the world, taxi operators are not the most ethical, law abiding and moral individuals. Many have spent time in jail or have had issues with the police. The profession, to many, is a last resort or a recurring opportunity to swindle people.

Obviously, there is natural sensitivity in India over the maltreatment of women and, as such, if Uber is creating unfavourable conditions for these events to continuously unfold, then their tenure in India will be short lived.

Uber was quick to defend itself as being responsible and that perhaps the issue has more to do with India’s lack of background checks in the commercial transportation licensing program. Needless to say, a new entrant that can seemingly skirt regulation (licensing), as well as impact existing monopolies, will face an uphill battle.

Ironically, it is the lack of regulation in the internet sector that will make it difficult for the Government of India to prevent people from using their smartphone to hailing a taxi through Uber. 

While this situation is most unfortunate, and lobby groups will attempt to maximize the fear as a mechanism to push out competition, Uber et al. will continue to make their advance on a growing market trend that is having major seismic impacts on how we hail a taxi. The Government of India should continue with reforms to ensure women are able to enjoy a safe existence in all aspects of life, but throwing Uber under the proverbial bus for one unfortunate incident would be regrettable.

Related Resources
Delhi to ban all internet taxi firms after Uber rape claim
In defense of Uber in India - Fortune
Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Swedish officials cracking down on Arlanda Airport taxi fraud!

New Arlanda Airport to Stockholm taxi regulations
It may be hard to believe that Sweden, of all places, deals with an epidemic when it comes to expensive taxi fraud. For many years, travellers have been swindled up to ten times the going rate for a simple trip from Arlanda International Airport (ARN) into Stockholm. Commonly, passengers fall prey to the confusing currency trick where the Swedish Krona (KRN) is commonly interchangeably with the Euro (EUR) and the traveller is told that the final price is in Euro, not Krona (1 Euro is about 9 Krona), thus expanding their profit margin on the dazed and confused tourist. This fraud practice has left many people with a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to visiting this Scandinavian country where prices across the board are already exuberant enough.

Swedish officials are finally clamping down on the fraud by requiring taxi drivers or their agents to discuss and agree upon the highest possible fare the passenger would be expected to pay for their entire journey the taxi leaves the curb. An example would be if the standard fare to Stockholm exceeds 500 Krona (about US$ 67 or EUR54) then the passenger must agree to this price before the taxi departs. Swedish officials are likely being proactive with the anticipation of Uber soon entering the Stockholm market with pre-paid fares as a mechanism to ensure travellers pay fair market price versus an almost guarantee fraud under the current status quo conditions. It does seem odd that for too long Swedish officials have turned a blind eye to the "unSwedish" behaviours in their capital city that have created a negative image for the country at the hands of some unethical taxi drivers in an oddly unregulated industry.

If you are heading to Stockholm anytime soon, then make sure you an agreement on the total maximum cost in writing (including what currency this will be in) before you jump into a taxi. If the taxi driver tries to justify an unwarranted increase at the end of your journey, then simply leave your money on the seat and walk away. As always with our recommendations anywhere in the world -- if possible carry all of bags in the backseat of the taxi and not the trunk to avoid any further scams occurring when you leave the taxi, including the taxi driving off with your personal luggage still in the trunk.

Related resources

'Wild west' taxi drivers face tough new rules
Spotify targets Stockholm Uber taxis
Stockholm taxi scam warning - Trip Advisor
Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN) transportation guide
Stockholm layover ideas and things to do in Stockholm