You asked for it and we listened. In this column, we ask operators of all sizes and from all walks of the industry a question about their business and report their answers so you can assess how your own company compares to your peers. If you would like to participate, please email Rob Smentek at email@example.com for next issue’s question.
TOPIC: Has your business been affected by airline cancellations and delays in recent months (positively or negatively)? What other airport issues affect your market (fees, construction, etc.)?
With our business located in one of the busiest markets in the country, we were definitely affected by airline cancellations over the last few months—and especially by the most recent FAA ground stop. We were able to adjust accordingly as things unfolded without disrupting our clients any further with their travel plans. Not only do you get cancellations, but it also triggered stranded passengers that need to get to larger airports like EWR, JFK, or PHL to call last minute for service.
Some other issues at airports we’ve been seeing in the NYC and PHL areas is the large amount of traffic volume through the airport. We’ve advised our chauffeurs to allow additional time. Being in this business for almost 30 years, my suggestion to any other operators is that you need to be flexible, available, and adjust as situations arise; there is no such thing as normal anymore.
Bryan Beale, General Manager
A&A Limousine Service in Northampton, Pa.
We deal with delays and cancellations as they come. Ultimately, they aren’t the customer’s fault so basically, we have to roll with the punches.
Nick Boccio, General Manager
Buffalo Limousine in Buffalo, N.Y.
Our company has seen minimal disruption to our schedule from the airline’s mishaps, but we help our clients through their travels and provide them with support any way we can. However, we have found a silver lining; state-to-state charters have picked up as we always stand ready to provide stranded passengers our services even when the airlines cannot.
Theresa Callahan, Founder
Jax Black Car in Jacksonville, Fla.
We have seen a drastic increase in flight cancellations and late arrivals, which can wreak havoc on our daily schedule, and is compounded by our own staffing shortages. When an arrival is significantly delayed, we must frequently schedule an additional chauffeur to avoid double booking the chauffeur who was originally scheduled for the trip. Because the notifications of flight cancellations or delays come with such short notice, it places us in chaos and conflict with our cancellation policies. It isn’t fair to charge a client for something that was out of the control of the client. When farm-in jobs go sideways because of a flight cancellation, we are committed to working with our affiliates and their cancellation policies, rather than our own.
Harry Dhillon, President
Ecko Worldwide Transportation in San Jose, Calif.
We have a motto in our company for dealing with these types of problems: “There’s a number for that.” In the case of airport pickups, there was a significant upward price adjustment to account for differences in the average chauffeur pay. The revision is also based on the impact on forecasts of vehicle availability throughout the day. We always choose to raise prices when the alternative is to diminish service quality. We find that our customer can absorb higher rates but not uneven reliability.
Dan Goff, General Manager
A Goff Limousine & Bus in Ruckersville, Va.
We have been very fortunate. Our business is mostly charter buses, and we have a tiny percentage of airport trips, so we were not affected much by the airline troubles. However, we have had some prolonged waiting at the airport arrivals due to immigration checks or flight delays. Because of that, we changed all international arrival trips to hourly charges.
There are two seasons in Chicago: Construction and winter. This is nothing new for us. Having a strict 72-hour cancelation policy helped us as well.
Stefan Kisiov, Managing Partner
K&G Coach Line in Park Ridge, Ill.
When we know that the airlines have taken a nosedive (pun intended) for the day or an extended period, we freeze additional incoming reservations. Our first priority is our existing reservations, then we will add more as we can. When the airlines are a mess, clients expect us to pull off miracles all day long. Unfortunately, I think we’re allocated only so many per day. As far as the positive or negative, there’s usually an opportunity for additional revenue, and we do our best to take advantage of it.
Tracy Salinger, President & CEO
Unique Limousine in Harrisburg, Pa.
During some bad weather events in Seattle, we were getting cancellation notices from clients starting at midnight. For about 85 percent of the flights, we had the flight information for departure and were able to inform our clients if they had not called us. Yes, in some cases, we did end up being in the red, but it was safer to have the vehicles parked at the lot then to try to venture out in the bad weather. Overall, our slow week became much slower with the weather and cancellations. Our airport fees also increased by 95 percent per car to $800 which will hopefully make things run smoother since we are paying more.
Jess Sandhu, Director of Operations
A&A Limousine and Bus Service in Kenmore, Wash.
As a luxury car service that specializes in corporate transportation, we will always be greatly affected by these types of situations, and we don’t have the ability to tell our clients “the fact that your flight has been delayed seven hours is inconvenient for our schedule.”
LAX has been in a perpetual state of construction for years and always provides challenges for our service. We rely heavily at times on our senior staff’s ability to explain changing circumstances at the airport to our clients, and because of our long history of good service the majority of our clients understand that our priority is getting them from point A to B in the safest and most efficient way possible even when adjustments need to be made in real time.
Jason Santiago, General Manager
Exclusive Sedan Service Worldwide in Newhall, Calif.
With the recent FAA outage, we had to plan for severe cancellations and delays. Fortunately for us, we had a large group in town for a financial event at Moscone Center that arrived a few days earlier. With the few arrivals we had, we adjusted as best as we could and relied on our partners to get through it.
David Uziel, CEO/Chairman
Urban Worldwide in South San Francisco, Calif.
Things in Amsterdam have reached nightmarish levels: there are long lines at customs and passengers are required to arrive up to four hours before departure. These problems stem from staff shortages with customs, baggage handlers, and more. As a result, we now have passengers get to the car on average 1.5 - 2 hours after landing. This raises our costs due to driver salary and parking tolls. Of course, we bill some, but not all, of these costs as we want to keep our customers happy. Conclusion: we charge 20 percent more for pickups from Amsterdam Airport.
Bart van Leijden, CEO
ETS Luxury Driving in Amsterdam
We’ve loved hearing your answers to our benchmarking questions—but we always welcome suggestions for future topics, too!
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org you just might see your query answered in our next e-News.