LCT is inaugurating CityView, a monthly feature taking a look at the limousine industry in one North American city. We started by interviewing several operators in New Orleans.
Why New Orleans? There’s nothing quite like rolling down Canal Street with a few friends in the back of a stretch limo, guided by a friendly, professional driver who knows what it means to “Let the Good Times Roll.”
• New Orleans is a party town and most business is generated by events such as Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, Essence Festival and a solid base of conventions and national and regional sporting events.
• The city’s corporate business is smaller than that of most cities of similar size.
• Operators carrying the names of the national limousine companies, such as Carey and Dav El, have about 25% of the market.
• The city’s convention business is down since 9/11, and several companies are trying to enter the non-corporate markets, such as weddings.
Number of Operators
• About 30 are licensed with the City of New Orleans’ Taxi Cab Bureau.
• Most would be classified as small operators, with up to three cars. A handful are medium and three are larger, with the average fleet size being 10 cars.
Number and Type of Vehicles
• About 250 to 300.
• Eight- to 10-passenger stretches are most common, followed by sedans, vans and minibuses.
• Sedans: About $40 to $55 an hour, with a three-hour minimum.
• Stretches: About $60 to $95 an hour.
• Airport transfers: About $60 for a sedan, about $80 for a limousine.
• Airport limo co-op: Nine operators are partners in a co-operative called A Airport Limousine Service, which provides walk-up sedan and limousine service from baggage-claim areas at the airport. The rate is $35 for one or two passengers, $95 for three to eight passengers.
• An operator must hold three limousine permits for each sedan permit.
• The last city audit to check for proper insurance was years ago.
• Only two city permit hearings are conducted each year.
• The city’s “need and necessity” law restricts new permits from being issued and was called archaic by one operator.
• There is no licensing reciprocity between the city and state.
• A clubby small-town business climate often pervades and many operators have known each other for more than 15 years.
• Operators can buy temporary additional permits for sedans when large city-wide events are held.
• The temporary permits cost $10 a day or $50 a week per vehicle during off-season, $20 a day during events.
• Most operators use rental cars, hire temporary drivers – who also have to obtain temporary chauffeur licenses – and transfer their regular insurance to those cars when additional vehicles are needed.