'Panic and despair': Kiwi pays $780 for Uber amid Japan typhoon devastation

A Kiwi man has paid over NZ$780 for an Uber after being trapped at a Japanese airport following a devastating typhoon.

Newshub's verticals editor Daniel Rutledge flew into Narita International Airport with his wife and young baby on Monday (NZ time), following one of the most powerful typhoons to strike the Tokyo area in recent years.

He's now condemning what he calls an "extraordinary failure of management" by the airport.

"We arrived at 4:30pm on the flight from Auckland. After looking around, we saw it was very crowded and hard to get anywhere," he says. "There was no information about what to do."

The airport is quite far from Tokyo, and in the aftermath, public transport out of the airport was cancelled. It was also very difficult to get a taxi in or out, leaving travellers to fend for themselves.

"[There were] over 13,000 trapped in the airport and convenience stores were running out of water," Rutledge says.

"Obviously there was a lot of panic and despair in the airport. We weren't the only family with a young baby. People were getting angry with each other for pushing into lines. I didn't see any violence but there were certainly some heated words."

He decided to queue up for a taxi - a mission with the wait in a line stretching for up to 10 hours.

"I decided to line up outside, away from the air conditioning in the heat for a taxi that I knew was going to cost a few hundred NZ dollars," he says. 

"But four hours later I had to give it up to go back inside and help out with the baby. Hardly any taxis were coming in and it just seemed hopeless."

It was now around 11pm, and there was still no respite or way of escaping. Trains had restarted but there were long queues stretching for hundreds of people.

Then the decision was made to cancel the trains at midnight, a decision Rutledge describes as "madness". The airport was handing out water, sleeping bags and crackers to the masses, who were forced to sleep in their queues on the floor.

"Throughout all this time I had been trying Uber but there were no available," Rutledge says.

"Luckily by some miracle we managed to to get an Uber at 2:30 in the morning. This had two-times surge pricing so the total was 54,000 yen, which is about 780 NZ dollars.

"The situation was desperate and getting dangerous. People were willing to pay or do anything to get out of there but there were very little options. Paying that much for an Uber is awful, but it made us some of the few lucky ones to get out when we did."

While he finally managed to arrive at his hotel, his experience has left a bad taste in his mouth.

And he's not the only one. Rutledge says there are thousands of travellers and locals "furious" at the airport.

"A lot of people there were very disappointed at the lack of management at a world-class airport," he says.

"With the Rugby World Cup about to kick-off and with the Olympics coming up next year, Narita Airport seriously needs to improve its crisis management. It was disruptive to the point of being dangerous and they should have had buses coming.

"It's also disappointing that Uber appears to have capitalised on the situation to make more money as opposed to helping out disaster victims."

Newshub.

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