Cancellations are hurting taxi drivers, passengers and venues – and are making people lose faith in public hire app bookings.
It is easy to understand why a black cab taxi driver on route to a booking might stop to pick up a fare in the street and cancel the booking – or why passengers who book a public hire cab jump in the nearest available taxi instead.
It is a vicious circle and part of a growing problem fuelled by fewer taxis on our roads and huge demand for their services – as well as the post-pandemic world where everyone wants everything instantly and convenience is king. Today, it is easy to use an app to have anything delivered to you. It knows where you are and payment is sorted behind the scenes.
While there are fewer taxi drivers on our roads than before the pandemic, we mustn’t forget that waiting for taxis is nothing new. Before Covid, during peak times such as rush hour and Friday and Saturday nights, passengers had to wait for cabs to become available, with long queues at taxi ranks – and a few lucky passengers managing to flag down the odd black cab with its light illuminated.
Now, no one wants to wait for anything. Even hanging on five or six minutes after booking a cab on an app can seem too long and passengers often ignore or cancel their booking and hop in the nearest available taxi instead.
This means the driver has spent money on fuel travelling to meet the passenger and wasted time travelling to pick up a fare that no longer exists. As well as lost earnings, it is also incredibly frustrating and can make the driver wonder whether future bookings will do the same.
But they know the passenger who has flagged them down in the street will be in the back of the cab within seconds and the full fare is guaranteed.
The driving forces behind this unhappy situation are convenience and cost.
Taxi drivers have to make a living and the longer they spend travelling to pick up passengers, the more it costs them in fuel and lost fares. As well as fuel, it costs them to keep their cabs on the road, with servicing and maintenance, road tax and public hire insurance. When fares are booked through apps, the drivers also pay commission and lose out on the full value of the fare, so it is understandable why they might prefer to pick up non-commission passengers at the expense of app fares.
However, this means that the passenger whose booking has been cancelled is left frustrated and facing a longer wait for a taxi, further down the virtual queue – and not knowing whether the next booking will arrive either.
As reported by Taxi Point, the perfect storm is created when venues such as hotels book cabs for guests. Staff use an app to make a booking with the nearest drivers, but when another public hire taxi arrives to drop off a fare and becomes available, the priority is to get the guests in it and off to their destination as quickly as possible, without thinking about the booking they have made which no longer has a fare.
The problem is made worse because the uncertainty has led to hotels booking several taxi for each guest with the hope that at least one will turn up.
If the situation continues, there are concerns it will reach the point where taxi drivers and passengers have little or no faith that the fare they have booked will show up.
To solve the problem, there needs to be more drivers to be able to meet demand and restore faith that booked cabs will arrive as expected.
It has also been suggested that moving the commission charge on fares from the drivers to passengers would level the field with on-street fares so that priority is given to the next fare, rather than the one that is more profitable.
And, by including the number of recent cancellations in the details of both passengers and drivers on the app when booking, each could make an informed decision on whether to wait for the fare that has been booked, rather than cancelling or jumping into the next cab.
All information is correct at time of publication. Information provided within this article may have changed over time. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by John Patons Insurance Services or any of its employees.