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UFO taxis’ tactics cause conflict, danger, outrage

Date Posted: 2002-09-14

Tight competition about dwindling number of customers among taxi drivers is bringing out the best and the worst of them. On the positive side, taxi companies are training their drivers in better customer service, language skills and other means to attract customers. On the negative side, tight competition often gets into drivers’ nerves making them cranky and aggressive drivers.

One of the busiest taxi stands is Naha Airport where dozens of taxis line up at two poles; one taking customers to destinations within Naha City, the other to further locations. A supervisor who points the customers to the right stand directs the operation. The supervisor is also tasked to keep the waiting taxis in order. However, recently some drivers have began to sneak around the lines picking up fares outside the designated area irritating other drivers who call them “UFO taxis.”

An incident involving a “UFO taxi” took place at the airport Monday, when a supervisor stopped a taxi he had noticed passing the line and picking up a customer ahead of the stand. When the supervisor confronted the driver, his customer got out and left. That upset the driver who gunned his engine and drove away with the back door open. The supervisor’s shirt got entangled in the door and was torn apart. The taxi dragged him some six meters but he didn’t suffer any physical injuries. The supervisor reported the incident to the police who arrested the driver the same day.

Okinawa Taxi Association Chairman Takeshi Akamine was outraged when he heard of the incident. “This kind of behavior is absolutely unacceptable. It could have lead to a serious injury. We have to try harder to educate our drivers to follow rules and behave calmly in every situation. Otherwise we will scare away our passengers instead of attracting more,” Akamine said.

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