CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rose Airport Express, a division of Rose Chauffeured Transportation, has launched a new business class airport shuttle service that will operate between uptown Charlotte and Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
The shuttle, called "The Loop," runs continuously every hour from uptown, stopping at key locations along a loop that includes the airport.
“We’ve been talking about this for over a year, and are always looking for ways to offer service,” said John Kessee, general manager of Rose Chauffeured Transportation, a 2008 LCT Operator Of The Year. “2009 travel and entertainment budgets have been squeezed, corporate travel is down. We are looking at this to provide revenue and taking some of the market share back that we lost.”
The service, just started last week, uses one 2007 Krystal 24-passenger mini-bus equipped with Wi-Fi Internet service, newspapers, and bottled water. The price for a one-way transfer will be $10 and all major credit cards will be accepted on the vehicle via wireless credit card terminal. Passes can be bought in advance for frequent travelers.
Rose tapped the Charlotte Area Hotel Association to help it line up major hotels along the route. There are also money-making marketing opportunities for Rose, since the bus has a DVD player that can run ads for local restaurants and points of interest, such as the NASCAR Hall of Fame, also one of the stops along the route. The bus features the Rose flower logo on both sides and on the roof so office workers in downtown Charlotte high-rise buildings can look down and see the location of the bus.
To set up the route, Rose had to get permission from the city of Charlotte and the state Department of Transportation to stop along curbsides. Decaling the bus cost about $1,600. It also got approval from airport authorities to access the commercial lane to pick up and drop off passengers.
“The stretch business is disappearing for everyone in Charlotte,” said Rose owner and founder, H.A. Thompson, who now keeps only one stretch limousine in his 30-vehicle fleet. “You have to reinvent yourself; be flexible; what worked last year does not work now, and what works for now may not work next year.”
Rose rode the motorcoach trend early, going from two buses in early 2009 to six now. The motorcoach demand has been driven a lot by area sports teams and university-related clients, Kessee said. The fleet also includes four mini-buses, two executive vans, 12 sedans, five SUVs, and the single stretch limousine, which barely breaks even most months.
Thompson anticipates a tight profit margin on the shuttle service at first as it sheds its training wheels during the first few months.
The Loops includes the Westin Hotel/Convention Center, with stops on College Street at the Hilton/One Wachovia, The EpiCentre/The Loft/Omni and The Ritz-Carlton, at the corner of College and Sixth Street for the Holiday Inn/The Hearst Tower and the last stop will be on First Street to provide service to Duke-Energy/The Catalyst/The Residence Inn. Other buildings accessible to the stops include GMAC, Duke Energy, Wells Fargo, Wachovia, and Bank of America.
The shuttle service hours of operation are weekdays from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., with Saturday service to start in April.
Source: Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine