Top Airports Provide Optimum Access for Livery Companies

Posted on March 1, 1998 by Tom Mazza, Contributing Editor

Page 1 of 3

What are the key characteristics that make for a good “livery-friendly” airport? According to a nationwide poll conducted by LCT of more than 130 significant players in 50 major markets across the country — including association presidents, company presidents, chauffeurs, and airport administrators — answers to this question include, ease of access to the airport and arriving passengers, minimal walking distance to the vehicle, reasonable annual per- vehicle permit costs, appropriate efforts made to eliminate gypsy operators, fair treatment from airport personnel, and a willingness to work with local associations and/or representative companies.

Unfortunately, many of the current airport facilities and personnel are just not adequate, resulting in adverse relationships between airport staffs and livery operators.

Understandably, this project angered some parties, particularly managers of airports receiving a poor review. In some cases, LCT was warned by some prominent airport personnel that they would retaliate against local operators if our report was published.

However, despite this storm, LCT believed the story should be told. Results are summarized in the following article.

Where Are the Nation’s Top Airports?

According to the data collected by LCT, the following five airports appear to be most responsive to operator needs:

1. Newark International Airport, Newark, NJ: Four dollars for four hours of parking, ample space, good signage, and a management team that understands the importance of a strong working relationship with the limousine industry were cited.

In a metropolitan area that is bursting at the seams, Newark International Airport has substantially expanded its facilities, and, at the same time, has respected the industry and implemented no unnecessary, arbitrary regulations. The airport is easily accessible from major highways in New York and New Jersey. The more than 29.1 million passengers in 1996 rivals the 31.2 million at JFK in New York.

2. Douglas International Airport, Charlotte, NC: In one of the fastest growing regions in the country, Douglas has managed to create a system that is fair to operators, despite its facility’s limited physical capabilities. With 22 million passengers in 1996, up 50 per cent from 1986, and almost constant airport construction, Douglas manages to be friendly, cooperative, and fair to the industry.

The Airport Authority provides eight conveniently located, protected spaces in each terminal for limousines and sedans for passenger pickup. “We need the limousine companies on our side,” says Michael Penny, ground transportation manager at Douglas. “They are bringing important people into our community. We must roll out the red carpet for these people. We believe limousine companies deserve VIP treatment and we attempt to provide it.”

3. Orlando International Airport, Orlando, FL: The number one tourist destination in the country. “Mickey” and “Donald” welcome limousine operators with open arms. Although the airport is undergoing construction estimated at a half billion dollars, the limousine operators have not been unnecessarily inconvenienced.

The chauffeur is allowed unlimited time for a pickup. Further, the commercial parking areas are significantly closer to the terminal. The airport provides a free holding area where you can wait for your pickup. When you exit the lot to pick up your passenger, there is a fee of $1.15 per 15 minutes for a stretch limousine. The Denver operators surveyed said they are seldom charged for more than 15 to 30 minutes.

Orlando International Airport has a free outer holding area for limousine companies. The first level of the terminal facility is for commercial vehicles and is regulated on a time basis. Despite a $200-per-vehicle city permit requirement, and the incredible expansion of the airport, the limousine industry has been treated very well in Orlando.

“Orlando is a major tourist destination,” says Rick Gonzalez, executive director of the Florida Livery Association. “The Orlando International Airport recognizes the importance of the livery industry. Our membership has been able to express our concerns to the director of planning. We’ve had real impact on the rules governing our livery services.”

4. Denver International Airport, Denver, CO: Straight out of the future, Denver International Airport has made a conscientious effort to cater to the limousine industry. This monument to modern technology has a luggage system that costs more than many terminals and allows passenger meets at baggage claim in all terminals.

The chauffeur is allowed unlimited time for a pickup. Further, the commercial parking areas are significantly closer to the terminal. The airport provides a free holding area where you can wait for your pickup. When you exit the lot to pick up your passenger, there is a fee of $1.15 per 15 minutes for a stretch limousine. The Denver operators surveyed said they are seldom charged for more than 15 to 30 minutes.  

5. Portland International Airport, Portland, OR: Portland International Airport reportedly contends with overwhelming passenger traffic due to major construction. The airport charges a $1 parking fee for commercial sedans and $1.50 for limousines. “Dwell time” is 45 minutes for limousines and on-demand for sedans.

Chauffeurs are allowed to meet arriving clients at the commercial roadway area or at the arriving gate. The commercial roadway is monitored to discourage gypsy op­erators. Throughout the entire construction process the airport manager has hosted informational meetings to keep the limousine in­dustry abreast of procedures, poli­cies, and changes. Additionally, registered limousine companies are quickly notified by mail of con­struction schedules and changes affecting their ability to provide services.

Life at certain other airports can be difficult for livery operators. The following input from survey respondents identifies typical problems:

Philadelphia International Airport, Philadelphia, PA: Limousine company owners in the Delaware Valley were among the most vocal about their airports rules and their general treatment of livery companies.

The combination of expensive fees, constant construction, aggressive enforcement, changing rules, and an almost total reliance on short-term parking for limousine companies makes Philadelphia tough on operators.

Philadelphia International Airport does meet with leaders of the local limousine community. Allegedly, however, very little action is taken.

“They have meetings and they listen to us,” says one company owner. “But time and time again they make more rules that hurt us. They try to police illegal operators but what ends up happening is they hassle the legitimate operators much more.”

Philadelphia International Airport is dominated by U.S. Airways that has undertaken, with the city’s help, a massive terminal renovation project which has played havoc with limousine services’ ability to pick up arriving passengers.

Prior to 1995, Philadelphia had a fairly simple, somewhat effective system to pick up passengers. The chauffeured vehicle would enter the airport and pay $1.50, park the vehicle behind the terminal, and have 40 minutes to locate the client and exit the airport. If a passenger was delayed, the chauffeur would return to his vehicle, pay an additional $1.50, and re-enter the terminal.

“We loved that system,” says Tony Viscusi, president of Dav-El in Philadelphia. “Both the clients and chauffeurs understood the system and it worked.” Airport construction eliminated the system and problems ensued.

Currently, there are the following three pickup options at Philadelphia:

1) Use short-term parking. Pay the Philadelphia Parking Authority $2.50 for 30 minutes, enter the airport, find your client, and walk him across six lanes of traffic to the vehicle. Most of the pickups in Philadelphia are done this way.

2) Pull into the commercial parking area, pay a fee, and wait at your vehicle behind the terminal. A chauffeur is often required to pay two separate fees, one to the Airport Authority and the other to the Philadelphia Parking Authority, just to pick up one client. If the client knows exactly where his vehicle will be upon arrival, the extra fee can be avoided.

“More than 60 percent of our trips are booked by someone other than the actual traveler,” says a major Philadelphia operator. “How can I be sure that the correct information reached the client? We strictly use short-term parking.”

3) Pull into a terminal lot and notify the airport employee that the limousine has arrived to pick up the client arriving on a certain flight. An airport employee notifies the terminal where the passenger is arriving, the passenger is notified, and the vehicle proceeds to the terminal. “A great idea, but a disaster in reality,” says the same Philadelphia operator. “There are too many communication breakdowns. We simply don’t use this, because it is not practical.”

Philadelphia International Airport police have often been very strict on livery operators:

“We just got a $90 ticket with our passengers in the vehicle because we pulled up to the terminal to load our handicapped client into the vehicle,” says one operator.

“Since the police are generally mean and nasty, I wrote a letter about a pleasant, professional policeman. It’s that rare to be treated with respect,” says another operator.                                       

“The rules have changed so frequently that the officer issuing the ticket could not clearly tell my driver the correct way to pick up a client in that particular terminal,” says yet another operator.

“I just had a ticket wiped out because the judge said the airport rules were dated 1990 and just do not apply. We do not have a copy of all the current regulations,” says another operator.


Logan Airport, Boston, MA: Yes, things have improved dramatically. John Farrell, ground transportation manager, is extremely responsive to the limousine industry. However, the facts remain:

Construction in and around the airport is a huge problem. Boston is a major industrial city with a sagging infrastructure. This hurts anyone who needs to do business on area roadways.

Access to passengers is severely limited. “Airport greeters” at Logan are a necessity for any company doing a significant number of pickups. There are different rules for different terminals. Regardless of the reasons behind these rules, it’s extremely difficult for airport passengers and a nightmare for limousine companies.

At least 50 percent of arriving passengers do not make reservations themselves for their chauffeured vehicles. Operators must provide arriving passengers with clear instructions on where to meet the chauffeur or they could have a major problem locating them. Also, regardless of the circumstances, chauffeurs should not have to walk their passengers across islands of traffic. The clients are paying for a luxury service. This type of service falls short.                                                                    

Passengers arriving at “Terminal A” exit through the lower level, walk across the street into the parking lot and look for the limousine stand. Passengers arriving at “Terminal B” pickup their luggage on the lower level and go to the upper level limousine area. The signage is generally minimal or outdated.

“We have been doing business at Logan Airport for more than 10 years and have had numerous stories of no- shows, where the client has gone out to the wrong area and left the airport in a taxi, when, in fact, the car was there,” says a major Boston-area operator. “We spend more than $60,000 per year on airport greeters just to ensure our clients find us at Logan.”

International passengers arriving at “Terminal E” must exit the airport and meet their chauffeur at the second traffic island. Airport officials say chauffeurs can notify airport personnel and receive permission to enter the terminal in an effort to find the client. However, operators say this is impractical when doing a large volume of airport trips.

David Kiely, president of Classique Limousines in Northbridge, MA, defends Logan. “We are no more than 60 feet from arriving passengers at Terminal E,” he says. “If you do not go inside the terminal, they can still see you outside. The problems at Logan are strictly because of the size and age of the facility. Airport personnel are fair to our industry. They do their best with what they are forced to work with.”

While limousine companies doing business at Logan praise airport management and the effort they have made to partner with ground transportation providers, the facts remain that Logan is a very difficult place to do business. Built to accommodate 3 million passengers, Logan serviced more than 28 million in 1996. Construction in the vicinity of the airport also makes a difficult situation almost impossible.

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