Saturday, 3 January 2015

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


by Todd Romaine

Ever heard of Skiplagged.com 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 skiplagged.com 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 skiplagged.com 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 skiplagged.com 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 skiplagged.com 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


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. ihatetaxis.com) 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

INDIA-CRIME-RAPE-TRANSPORT-UBER
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!

Väntan
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

Monday, 24 November 2014

Jakarta Airport train construction begins

Leaving Jakarta - Soekarno-Hatta airport
View outside gate at Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport
creative commons image by asiacamera on Flickr
Good news for travellers to Indonesia!

No longer just a promise, there is news today that construction has begun on a rail link that will connect Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK) with both East Jakarta Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport (HLP) and the city centre.

The new express train will reduce the travel time between the two airports from 1 to 3 hours by taxi, to just 30 minutes. This will help facilitate the transfer of more domestic airlines from the over-capacity Soekarno-Hatta Airport to Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta. Construction on the Soekarno-Hatta Airport train terminal has commenced.

Several new train stations will be built to serve the Greater Jakarta area. According to Muhammad Fadhila, KAI Railink's president director, in the Jakarta Post, new station locations are planned in Batu Ceper, Tangerang, and adjacent to the existing Sudirman station in Jakarta city centre.

IHateTaxis has heard of completion dates in both 2016 and 2017, so we'll have to wait and see, but this new Jakarta airport train service will be welcome, whenever it arrives!

Related resources
Jakarta airport begins construction of train station
19 investors eye airport express train project
Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK) transportation guide
East Jakarta Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport (HLP) transportation guide
Jakarta Layover Ideas and Things to Do in Jakarta

Thursday, 20 November 2014

New Cab Share app is a mixed review!

Back Seat of a Taxi
Cab sharing = BFFL?
Image: richpompetti on flickr, creativecommons
by Todd Romaine

In the brave new taxi world of Uber, others are also creating innovations that link smart phone technology, the internet, and attempted cost savings to the consumer. For a few Canadian student inventors, their cabshare app (cabshareanada.ca, @cabsharecanada) is an attempt to link consumers into one taxi versus two by creating a social platform to connect passengers heading out in the same direction. And in theory, it makes total sense to cut down on fares but one wonders the actual practicality of it in real time. While it makes sense at an airport or train station to link up with another passenger to travel in the same direction, it is less likely to happen outside of major transportation nodes. And even if it does work, you would need to figure out who is paying what amount and by what means. It is highly improbable both random travelers are going to the exact address and, of course, whether or not a taxi driver will accept payments in half cash, half credit.

In other words, the bartering process could continue throughout your journey with both the other passenger and the driver. Also, all too often, taxi drivers are onto this perceived scheme and will attempt to double charge the fare and treat individuals seperately.

Also for those anti-social types, whom prefer to be using your smartphone for the whole ride to the airport or elsewhere you now are somewhat obligated to engage in idle chit chat with your new found friend. The same individual that may be creeping your Facebook profile later on and assuming a friendship exists because of awkward chat in a taxi?

All in all, is it really worth it? For some people, it will be, but for individuals like myself I would prefer avoiding the unnecessary complexities of a routine task of getting from A to B. The cost of privacy and a silent ride without potential haggling with the person next to you is worth the extra few dollars in my perspective.

Related resources
New Vancouver app provides alternative to Uber
Free Taxi Vancouver - one guy in a chicken suit
Dear Canadian Taxi Monopoly: your Uber Boogie Man doesn't scare me
Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Free Taxi Vancouver - one guy in a chicken suit


Yesterday, a new service, Free Taxi Vancouver, began offering, yes, free taxi rides in Vancouver.

Kyle MacDonald kicked off the campaign on Reddit:
I'm giving out FREE taxi rides tonight in Vancouver to raise awareness of taxi industry reform.

Reportedly wearing a chicken costume, and tweeting his location via @YesFreeTaxi, Kevin even scored a CTV interview, coverage on CBC radio, and more. Kyle has since updated his Reddit post with stories about the people he helped.

Kyle MacDonald is known to think out of the box: he's the Canadian famously known as the "Red Paper Clip guy" (http://oneredpaperclip.blogspot.ca). In this latest venture, Kyle is seeking to raise awareness about Canadian taxi regulations and the need or reform.

The free rides for a night is a repeat of a similar stunt back in June, when @YesFreeTaxi first offered its first free rides for a night.


Related resources
Assessing and Reforming Vancouver's Taxi Regulations (Bob Proctor, 2009)
Dear Canadian Taxi Monopoly: your Uber Boogie Man doesn't scare me
Taxi Truths campaign puts lipstick on a pig


Dear Canadian Taxi Monopoly: your Uber Boogie Man doesn't scare me

by Todd Romaine

 If you want to see the war on Uber in Canada, check out this recently compiled website that hopes to dispel the 'sensationalist' claims by Uber that it will offer consumers more affordable choices when it comes to ground transportation: http://taxitruths.ca/

A quick review of the website reveals an amateur approach to marketing, with disjointed arguments about the case against an alternative provider, mixed in with irrelevant facts about taxis in Canada. 

You see, the taxi monopoly in Canada has never had to market their services to consumers per se, but rather spends their time working on politicians to limit new entries to market and increase fares. They have been waging a war on consumers for years to force you to pay more and wait more. If you can control the supply side of things, you can manipulate the demand favourably. This is one taxi truth they don't want you to know about, but rather are creating the Uber Boogie Man to scare off consumers to the notion of "choice" which would increase supply, draw down demand, and reduce overall costs for the traveler.

Under their page of "The Truth", the Canadian Taxi Monopoly indirectly paints future Uber drivers as insecure and the service of limited value. In other words, you will be uninsured and be driven by some amateur driver versus a seasoned, professional taxi operator. That somehow driving a motor vehicle is a specialized skill set now that should disqualify people like you and I from entry into this exclusive market. And despite Uber's legitimate claim of insurance coverage exceeding that of the taxi industry, the Canadian Taxi Monopoly continues to spread untruths about coverage because ultimately their arguments are that weak.

Furthermore, as a final desperate plea for you to discard new entrants into the marketplace, the Canadian Taxi Monopoly is appealing to the consumers' moral compass to suddenly link Uber's entry as negative in the form of job losses and earning a decent wage. In other words, we are being told monopolies are good because they artificially keep some people in business.

The most hilarious part of this whole debacle is that somehow the Canadian Taxi Monopoly think that consumers will actually go to this website and become ardent supporters of theirs in this "selfless campaign". For too long the Canadian Taxi Monopoly has disregarded the consumer when it comes to professionalism, not hiring fluent and polite drivers and essentially cutting costs while lobbying for rising prices. Now they want us to get "educated" so that we can have more of the same!

No thanks.

I want choice and cheaper fares please.


Related resources
New website features 'Taxi Truths' and takes aim at Uber
UberX: Innovation or Anarchy? A Look at the Pros and Cons of Montreal’s New Ridesharing App
Stop Those Who Would Stop Uber
Taxi Truths campaign puts lipstick on a pig
Canadian Taxi Monopoly is attempting to curb consumer choice
Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants

Monday, 10 November 2014

Taxi Truths campaign puts lipstick on a pig

Lipstick on a pig.
'Taxi Truths' letter to Canadians kicks off national campaign
Image by @MickCoulas
In the latest move of desperation, Canada's biggest taxi companies have banded together to launch national advertising and a new website.

They're calling it a conversation with Canadians, but it's a one-way campaign built on fear mongering anti-Uber campaigns to date in Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.

The new website, Taxi Truths, touts the benefits of taking a licensed taxi, With a groovy website design (it's actually rather clever), and even implying it has own app, Taxi Truths is trying to show it is "with it", but it's clearly lipstick on a pig.

Armed with data and arguments on the side of safety, security and accessibility (the claim on value will be disputed), the Canadian Taxicab Operators fail to grasp the role sharing has on the psyche of Canadians on the move, in the time of the exploding sharing economy.

Will it work? Only time will tell, but we are clearly in the side if the skeptics.

The Canadian Taxicab Companies group lists its members in Calgary (Checker Group, Associated Cab Company), Edmonton (Taxi Service Group), Montreal (Taxi Diamond), Ottawa (Coventry Connections), Toronto (Royal Taxi) and Vancouver (MacLure’s Cabs, Vancouver Taxi, Yellow Cab, Black Top & Checker Cabs). Perhaps fearing it's next to hit Uber's radar, the site also lists Winnipeg (UniCity Taxi, Duffy’s Taxi) is also listed on the site.

Related resources
Taxi companies start national anti-Uber campaign
New website features 'Taxi Truths' and takes aim at Uber
Canadian Taxi Monopoly is attempting to curb consumer choice
Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants

Friday, 7 November 2014

Canadian Taxi Monopoly is attempting to curb consumer choice

London anti-Uber taxi protest June 11 2014 036
Anti-Uber taxi protest chaos in London in June - is Vancouver next?
Creative Commons image by zongo on Flickr
by Todd Romaine

Desperate last straw efforts to save an archaic monopoly will be hitting Canadian airwaves in the coming days as the Canadian Taxicab Association (@CTA_Taxi) tries to argue that taking an “unregulated vehicle” is the same thing as having some stranger with no flying experience operate your flight.

Yes, this is how silly it is getting to try to convince consumers to stay with a system that profits handsomely by ensuring an undersupply of taxis and causing endless frustrations in commuters. The idea of introducing more drivers on the road whom will charge less money than the traditional monopolistic rates has this industry running scared that competition will mean less fares and more accountability to customer service.

In Uber’s defense, they do background checks on the drivers and look after insurance. Whether a taxi driver is better than a regular driver is highly subjective however.

To compare driving a motor vehicle to that of flying a sophiscated flying machine is just plain silly and is insulting to commuters that want to reduce their waiting time and the ensuing bill for their commute.

In Vancouver, a 6 month moratorium was placed on the issuance of more taxi licenses which thereby prohibits Uber from entering the market.

In addition, Vancouver cab companies have gone as far as to launch a lawsuit against Uber, even before they have actually started business in the city. Politicians have thus far weighed in on the side of the traditional taxi operators, but there is little doubt that the free market and providing consumers with greater choice will sweep over the old age era of convenient protectionism for those maintaining an arguably corrupt fiefdom that deliberately limits competition despite overwhelming evidence of increasing demand.

As a mechanism to bolster growing support in Vancouver, Uber launched a job fair for new drivers and has created an online petition (over 6,000 signatures to date) to be circulated to the City of Vancouver requesting entrance to address an arguably growing business need.

For the taxi monopoly, the age old tricks of lawsuits and intimidation will eventually backfire so its high time they accept Uber as a legitimate competitor and begin to enhance customer service and reduce fares if they wish to stay in business over the long term.

Related resources:
UberX targeted by cab companies with ad campaign over safety
Uber launches online petition to raise public support for Vancouver service
Uber block: Vancouver taxi companies seek injunction against ride-share service
Uber Vancouver to get undercover government checks to enforce taxi regulations
Cities must crack down on the scourge of convenient, efficient taxi service
Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants