A surge in demand for taxis caused by the World Cup and the winter tourism rush has left many Dubai residents waiting longer than usual.
The Roads and Transport Authority announced last week it was adding an extra 700 Hala taxis via the Careem app, to its existing fleet of 11,310, to help ease the movement of people going to fan zones and travelling through the airport, to and from matches.
The RTA is also operating close to 1,400 metro trips each day to cope with the added demand, as fan zones host tens of thousands of supporters across the emirate each day.
“We are aware that the city is busy and that the demand for Hala taxis is much higher,” said a representative for Hala, the app.
“Over the past few months, we have worked with the RTA and our taxi partners to roll out additional taxis and captains, identifying and being present in high-density locations to absorb the demand as much as possible.
“The estimated times of arrival for Hala taxis are adapted to the accelerated growth that we have seen in the city."
Hala also opened a designated hub for drivers in Al Quoz in October, to help cope with the additional demand it was expecting, in the lead up to the World Cup.
The RTA is also operating two Dubai ferries and one water taxi for the duration of the World Cup. Service timings are in line with the match schedules.
However, many residents have still been left frustrated by the longer than usual waits to get a taxi.
Aline Pereira, 33, a Brazilian who works in public relations, said fares had gone up and it was much harder to get a taxi since the end of summer.
“I’ve lived in Dubai for seven years and my home is on The Palm and the office is in DIFC," she said.
"I’ve always taken taxis and it’s never really been an issue until now.
“It’s even worse if you have a couple of meetings throughout the day on top of your commute.”
Ms Pereira said another layer of frustration has been created by drivers notifying her they have arrived at her location — only for her to go outside and find they were not there.
“I’ve ended up waiting outside for 15 to 20 minutes for taxi drivers who told me they were already there,” she said.
Another resident said the lack of taxis left him using more costly alternatives.
“It’s difficult to get a taxi after 3pm in certain areas. Using the Hala Taxi via Careem App is many a time the only option since we cannot flag down taxis from the road,” said Melwyn Abraham, 42, an Indian working in the digital sector.
“Many times, I am forced to use a Lexus [luxury service] since the option for Hala Taxi is not available from certain areas and we end up paying Dh85 or so for a journey that otherwise would cost Dh25.”
Another taxi operator said the challenge had been compounded by problems in the supply of new cars.
There is a global shortage of new vehicles, caused by a scarcity of microchips, which are key components in the manufacturing of vehicles.
“As a marketplace that matches demand for ride-hailing services with a supply of captains, Careem welcomes anyone in the UAE who’d like to work in ride-hailing in line with the local laws and RTA regulations,” said Antonio Al Asmar, general manager for Careem in the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain.
“We are working with regulators and car dealers to continuously bring more cars on the road but one of the key challenges we face is a shortage of cars. This challenge isn't unique to our region — it is a global supply chain issue.”