Life’s little luxuries: limousine airport transfers

Whenever we’re on holiday we tend to splurge a little and airport transfers by a chauffeured limousine is one of those little luxuries.

Irrespective of the class of travel (perhaps not if it’s Suites/First Class), going to and from the airport always brings a bit anxiety, especially when you arrive into a completely foreign city. Rather than dragging the luggage around trying to find your way to the hotel after a long flight, it’s a sign of relief knowing there’s someone waiting to pick you up.

Most five-star hotels have their own fleet of luxury limousines, like the famous signature Peninsula Green Rolls Royce Phantom offered by the Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong, to transfer guests. Or more extravagant yet, arrive by helicopter. Generally speaking though, such services carry a hefty price tag.

For a more affordable service, most large cities have a number of independent or chain limousine service providers. However, many of the independent providers are small mum and dad businesses and service quality can vary widely. This is where the fast-growing German company Blacklane Limousines founded by Dr. Jens Wohltorf in 2011 comes in.

Blacklane accesses a network of vetted independently licensed limousine service providers around the world, offering its reliable services in over 150 cities and 50 countries. Its user friendly web-based booking and payment system combined with on-demand service (15 minutes before departure) make it a stress free way to travel.

Once you’re registered, bookings can be made via desktop or the smartphone app. All that’s required is your pick-up and drop-off point, date/time, flight information and then select the type of car you want. Depending on the city, you can choose from Economy (e.g. Honda Accord/Toyota Camry), Business (e.g. Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5 Series) , First Class (e.g. Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series) or Business Van/SUV (e.g. Mercedes Viano). The all-inclusive price is confirmed at the time of booking and then charged to your credit card.

In all of the times we’ve used Blacklane, the chauffeur has been holding a sign with the booking name waiting patiently to greet us at the exit gate. Depending on your connectivity, you also receive email and mobile (via the app) notification that your driver has arrived, together with his/her name, car registration and contact number. The driver is quick to jump in to help with your luggage and generally there’s bottled water, reading material and on some , WiFi connectivity for your convenience which is particularly handy to catch up on emails and Facebook without ridiculous data roaming costs. Needless to say, the journey is comfortable and relaxing.

Another similar service provider is the somewhat controversial Uber, which began as a ride sharing service in San Francisco in 2009. Today Uber offers a range of services in over 200 cities, including Uber X (everyday car driven by everyday driver), Uber Taxi (standard local Taxi service), Uber Black (private driver in high-end car), Uber SUV (seats up to six), and Uber Lux (private driver in the finest cars).

Uber’s Black, SUV and Lux service is most similar to Blacklane’s offering, and equally it can be booked via desktop or through a smartphone app. The price is however not agreed upfront, apart from fixed prices to special destinations like to/from Airports (e.g. AU$75 from Sydney International Airport to CBD), but rather an estimate is provided where a minimum spend (e.g. AU$25 for Sydney) applies.

As it’s an on-demand service, the app lets you see what cars are available nearby and provides an indication on waiting times. A notification is sent via the app when your driver arrives outlining his/her name, car registration and car type. We’ve only used Uber Black which uses vehicles like Holden Caprice (in Australia only), Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series. Unlike Blacklane, you can’t book in advance and for that reason I personally prefer Blacklane. Having said that I find Uber especially useful for unplanned events, particularly when it rains , during peak hours or in between shifts, when it’s near impossible to find a cab/taxi.

No cash changes hand, everything is charged to your registered credit card and you get a detailed receipt showing cost and distance travelled pretty much as soon as you get off the ride.

Certainly more extravagant than taking a cab/taxi, train or bus, both Blacklane and Uber offers extra comfort and luxury for discerning travellers. Know other great limousine services? Share in the comment box below.