Man shocked by $198 taxi fare

John Ascroft says he complained to Black Cabs - part of the Auckland Co-op Taxis group - but...
John Ascroft says he complained to Black Cabs - part of the Auckland Co-op Taxis group - but never heard back.
An Auckland cab company is being investigated for its massive fares - including a $200 trip from Auckland Airport to the North Shore.

The national taxi industry body is looking into claims against Auckland Black Cabs, owned by the biggest taxi business in New Zealand, and Auckland Airport has vowed to speak to the company about its high fares.

Christchurch businessman John Ascroft contacted the New Zealand Herald about his $198.40 fare for a 37.4km trip with Auckland Black Cabs to Albany in February - that's $5.30 for every kilometre he travelled.

The same company, which is owned by industry giant Auckland Co-op Taxis, also charged an Auckland family $155 for their 34.1km ride home to Devonport on Saturday and an Australian couple $94 for a 21.1km trip into the city last month.

Auckland Co-op Taxis is a member of the NZ Taxi Federation.

The concerned passengers contacted the Herald after we published on Saturday a price comparison by global travel company CheapFlights that showed Auckland as the third most expensive of 24 cities around the world for catching a cab from its airport to city centre.

The average Auckland taxi fare was given as $3.50 a kilometre, two places behind the most expensive city, Berlin ($4.06 a kilometre).

Mr Ascroft said his fare was unbelievable. He laid a complaint with the firm, but it never responded. He was concerned about the impact on "unsuspecting"tourists. "Black Cabs in particular ... it really upsets me from a tourism point of view."

Auckland Airport general manager Richard Barker said he was concerned by the claims and would be speaking to taxi operators.

"I am horrified that someone could be charged that much. I want people to get the best-value transport into the city and I am more than happy to take it up with Black Cabs."

The airport had no control over prices in the deregulated industry, but companies provided their NZ Transport Agency-approved pricing schedules as part of a tender process to be able to operate from the airport.

"Based on the rates the taxi companies provide to us ... there should be no way it should have gone anywhere close to what he was charged."

Mr Barker said staff provided advice on where to get transport and which modes were the most affordable.

New Zealand Taxi Federation president Roger Heale said he was disgusted and would ensure the matter was investigated.

"It is something that I will take up with Auckland Co-op because if you are aligned with a company that is demanding a certain standard of its taxis then it should be uniform and there is no way that they should allow their drivers to [charge] like that.

"It is up to those companies that are associated with the Fed to bring those companies they purchase whose operators are really not compliant up to standard ... but unfortunately that doesn't happen overnight."

Mark O'Brien, compliance officer for all Auckland Co-op Taxis-owned brands, said he did not recall Mr Ascroft's complaint. However, he agreed the fare sounded too high and said he would investigate.

He would also follow up the other two incidents, but said passengers should be checking fare schedules before getting into a taxi.

In April an Australian couple, who did not wish to be named, contacted the Taxi Federation after being charged $94 for a 21.1km journey from the airport to the Rydges Auckland Hotel in the city centre.

The taxi driver, Ray Chandra, told the Herald: "That's the normal price of a taxi ... it can be up to $130. It depends on traffic and all that."

The Transport Agency approves taxi companies' rates and investigates complaints if they cannot be resolved between a passenger and a firm.

- Morgan Tait, NZ Herald

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