Abu Dhabi: Careem, one of the two major online ride providers that suspended operations in the capital on August 27, is now back in business.
The Dubai-based company that allows commuters to hail rides using a smartphone online application resumed operating on Wednesday morning after being unavailable to commuters for nearly four days. However, the services of its US-headquartered counterpart, Uber, remain suspended.
“Careem is operating on a skeleton basis until we are able to regain most of our fleet,” Christian Eid, Careem’s vice-president of marketing, told Gulf News in a statement.
The provider, which refers to its drivers as “captains”, added that initially, supply of Careem cars may be limited.
“We decided to reopen our service primarily to support our captains, who rely on us to get business. Supply may be an issue at the beginning so we ask our customers to be patient with us until we gradually increase our fleet to meet demand,” Eid said.
“We are still working closely with the authorities to secure our mission to provide a reliable platform for captains as well as a transport solution for our customers,” he added.
The announcement was a relief to many expat commuters, who prefer the convenience of cashless payments and ride tracking that Careem and Uber offer.
The reason for the suspended operations is still not clear, and the Abu Dhabi taxi and limousine regulating authority, The Centre for Regulation of Transport by Hire Cars (TransAD), has not yet responded to queries.
Meanwhile, Uber said they would not resume services until they get clarification on reports that drivers of similar services had been detained by police.
As Gulf News reported on Tuesday, Uber had denied reports in a section of media on the arrest of their drivers.
Shaden Abdul Latif, communications manager at Uber Mena, said that the services “remained suspended in Abu Dhabi after reports of drivers [of online cab providers] being detained on August 27”.
“While no driver partners using the Uber platform were stopped, we will not resume services until we have further clarity on the matter, the reassurance that partners will not be at risk and riders will not be inconvenienced while taking a trip,” she added.
“All Uber drivers in Abu Dhabi are licensed transportation providers, and our priority is the safety of drivers using the Uber technology for work, as well as to be a reliable choice to riders across the city. We do not know the names of drivers arrested, or why they were arrested and have not received any information from third parties. [And] we have been in conversation with multiple stakeholders to gain clarity on the issue. But the situation still remains unclear,” Abdul Latif explained.
In the capital, drivers that provide rides via online transportation networks like Uber and Careem must be registered with TransAD.
An official source told Gulf News that these services must also charge fares similar to those of limousine companies, and cannot compete with public taxi fares.
One driver who declined to be named said he had previously offered rides while being registered with a private transport company.
“Getting a licence as a limousine company is twice as expensive, so I suppose I will have to go back to scrambling for customers,” he added.
TransAD has not yet provided an official comment, and police authorities did not respond to queries about the rumoured driver detentions.
The official source, however, added that relevant authorities had been strictly monitoring drivers with private transportation providers who solicit customers near the airport and other landmarks because many of them do not hold the required registration.