Picking up a client on time matters more than anything else in this business. Delayed flights and bad weather conditions can disrupt even the most stellar of service.
Commonwealth Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation, based in Boston, had to deal with this problem as its fleet and corporate clientele grew.
“We have to track about 500 flights a day in Boston and New York,” says Norman Hamel, Commonwealth’s senior vice president of sales. “We must be on time.”
Commonwealth stays on top of flight arrival and departure information through FlightView, a flight tracking software program, and communicates with clients if delayed flight times affect their plans, he says. It’s also a major concern to not have cars sitting for an extra hour or more with the engine running to keep air conditioning or heating on for the chauffeur.
Flight arrival conditions also are on the minds of corporate travel managers during sales meetings. “Some clients bring it up,” Hamel says. “We’re able to tell them we can track commercial and private airport flights and weather conditions, and can communicate with clients ahead of time if delays are coming up. Clients can rearrange their schedules on the ground in their scheduled cities.”
Commonwealth does a lot of business with financial institutions, which often set up “road shows” with clients. “We have to track weather conditions for hours ahead of their appointments,” he says. Commonwealth can follow the direction of weather patterns, such as circular storm conditions off the coast that move in and affect air and road traffic. “We may suggest to our clients that they move back appointment times because of bad weather conditions,” Hamel says.
Commonwealth President/CEO Dawson Rutter visited FlightView about six years ago to find out what the company had to offer. “They’re right down the street,” Hamel says. “Dawson went over and chatted with them. It dawned on him: ‘This is what we should have.’”
20 Years in the Limousine Business
RLM Software started providing this service 28 years ago and more recently changed its name to FlightView, CEO Mike Benjamin says. “The company has been working with the limousine industry for about 20 years, and has been riding the wave of technology. In the 1990s, we used to beam XML feed to Boston- Coach though a satellite on its roof.”
Today, FlightView collects and tracks data from the Federal Aviation Administration, airports, and airlines. It follows all flights at commercial and fixed-based operator airports, including departures, gate changes, and airplanes stalled and waiting on tarmacs. And once the plane is up in the air, FlightView can make realistic estimates of landing time based on FAA data, climate conditions, type of airplane, and other factors.
As operators increasingly serve a corporate clientele, accessing as much flight information as possible is critical. About 80 of the operators on the LCT Top 100 ranking use FlightView’s product to increase operational efficiency, Benjamin says.
“Limousine companies are getting squeezed,” he says. “They have to save money and provide customer service. Clients are loyal to limousine companies if they haven’t let them down.”
FlightView has created alliance relationships with other industry technology suppliers including GT3 and Livery Coach, allowing FlightView data to be integrated into their reservation systems, Benjamin says. Integrating data to other systems helps operators control transactions, including corrections being made to incorrect flight numbers during reservation bookings.
FlightView is part of Commonwealth’s strategy to use the latest technology for operations management. In January, the company announced its Chauffeur Direct program, which sends an email to a client’s mobile device 15 minutes before pickup. It notifies clients exactly where the vehicle is waiting for them, and the chauffeur’s name and cell phone number.
“When you’re traveling for business, every minute is precious,” says Dawson Rutter, President of Commonwealth Worldwide. “We’re always looking for innovative ways to make our clients’ journey smoother.”