Airport Taxi operators say the implementation of the new COVID-19 preventive measures at the airport has affected their business. Travellers entering the country are required to test for COVID-19 at the testing centre in the gardens of Peniel Beach Hotel less than two kilometres away near Entebbe International Airport upon arrival.
The operators say that most of those tested are picked up by their relatives and friends and don’t use airport taxis. Figures from the Health Ministry show that over 4,000 travellers have so far been tested at the centre. Airport taxi operators led by Jackson Sserubidde, the chairperson of Airport Taxi Services Cooperative Society Ltdsay that the testing centre has affected the number of passengers they carry daily because eligible travellers spend about four hours at the centre.
Sserubidde says that 108 out of 240 airport taxi operators currently work at the airport. However, of the 108 drivers, less than twenty are able to carry at least one arriving passenger. “You see, out of about 100 people who arrive, less than ten are allowed to leave the airport,” he said.
Adding that “When the majority of the travellers are taken for testing, our drivers have to fight with special hire drivers. Most times, our drivers fail to get clients at the centre.” Emmanuel Mugisha and David Kagolo, both airport taxi operators, agree with Sserubidde. Mugisha says that most of the travellers call their relatives or friends to pick them up from the testing centre because of the long waiting hours.
Mugisha jokes that Peniel Beach has become the new airport taxi parking area because several airport taxis and other cars nowadays park there and Spennah Beaches along Airport road. Some of the airport taxi drivers say that they no longer wait at Entebbe Airport. They now camp outside Peniel Beach Hotel where they compete with special hire operators, Boda boda riders and private car drivers.
The drivers say that most of the travellers do not want to board their cars because they feel the tests conducted at Shillings 250,000 are expensive. As a result, they feel irritated and do not want to pay more than Shillings 50,000 on transport “yet that is what we spend on fuel to and from Kampala,” one Amos Mulindwa said.
However, as most airport drivers and special hire drivers compete for passengers, one special hire driver based in Kampala says one of the travellers called him and asked him to pick him and his spouse from the testing centre.