Seniors on the Go: Worldwide airport taxi gouges
Tokyo's Narita airport (Laurent Fievet, AFP/Getty Images)
-- Tokyo Narita: $305. That's outlandish, but hardly anybody actually uses taxis; express trains on either JR-East (about $30) or Keisei Skyliner (about $24) take less time -- about an hour -- and local trains can cost about half those express fares. Also, many travelers take buses directly from their hotels.
-- Milan Malpensa: $115. This is yet another airport so far out of town that few travelers take taxis. Instead, they use trains ($13), about 45 to 60 minutes, depending on destination stations.
-- London Heathrow: $90. Typical business-class travelers probably take the taxi -- quick taxi access is one of the reasons they prefer close-in Heathrow over Gatwick or Stansted -- but leisure travelers are likely to take one of the rail options, running from the high-speed nonstop Heathrow Express ($32), 20 minutes to Paddington, to the slightly slower Heathrow Connect train ($16) to Paddington and the Underground to just about anywhere in central London (about $9 peak, $5 off-peak) but included on a one-day travelcard ($25 peak, $15 any day after 9:30 a.m. all day weekends). Gatwick and Stansted are so far out of town that nobody really even considers cabs; rail costs are about $30 to $35 on nonstop airport expresses and, at Gatwick, slower trains cost $16 and up.
Munich Franz Josef Strauss: ($68). Although the distance isn't great, taxis are expensive. Alternative train-to-city center stations cost about ($14) and take 15 to 30 minutes depending on downtown station.
-- Paris de Gaulle: $60. This is another airport that isn't far outside the city but suffers from very high taxi costs. The alternative RER train costs about $12 and takes roughly 30 minutes.
-- Melbourne Tullamarine: $60. The alternative express bus costs about $17 and takes about an hour. Rail service is planned.
-- Amsterdam Schiphol: $57. Although Schiphol is close to town, taxis are expensive. Alternative trains to city center cost about $6.50 and take 20 minutes, either to the central station or the outlying Zuid district.
-- Copenhagen Kastrup: $56. The alternative train costs about $3.50 to the center city and takes about 30 minutes.
-- Brussels: $47. The train to the city center -- Europe's first airport rail link -- costs about $40 and takes 20 minutes.
For the most part, taxi fares at these airports are so high that even a couple sharing a cab would pay more for taxi fare than two rail or bus fares, although door-to-door taxi service might look reasonably good for families at some places. Unfortunately, what is often the best alternative airport transport in the United States, the door-to-door shuttle, hasn't spread widely to most of the rest of the world.
These days, lots of important airports offer rail service, including most other big hubs worldwide. I used rail access everywhere on last year's round-the-world trip: Beijing, Dubai, Istanbul, Krakow and Seoul. U.S. hubs are catching up fast: Those with good rail access include Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago/Midway, Chicago/O'Hare, Cleveland, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York/JFK, Newark, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington/Reagan National. The latest to open is light rail at Salt Lake City. Notable exceptions include Dallas-Ft. Worth, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Washington/Dulles, although Dallas, Denver and Dulles are planning rail links. The downside to rail access is the need to schlep baggage up and down stairs at many downtown stations.
Even where taxi fares are lower, you have to be careful to avoid unlicensed "gypsy" cabs and being "taken for a ride" to run up the meter. Always check what the fare should be before you get in a cab.
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins(at)mind.net. Perkins' new book for small business and independent professionals, "Business Travel When It's Your Money," is now available through http://www.mybusinesstravel.com or http://www.amazon.com)