Industry Research

What’s Happening at the Largest U.S. Airports

LCT Staff
Posted on March 1, 2004

Most chauffeurs spend more time at their local airport than any other single destination. Some of the industry’s most successful operators have built their companies on providing airport services. It’s a highly competitive market, with slim profit margins that are often made slimmer by rampant airport fees for parking and access.

The major airlines have historically paid massive fees to keep airports operating, but according to Ray Mundy, executive director of the Airport Ground Transportation Association in St. Louis, Mo., they can no longer afford to pay for everything.

“Our nation’s largest airports are like small cities,” notes Mundy. “When they have budget shortfalls, they look for creative ways of making up for them.”

After what Mundy calls the perfect storm – 9/11 and the faltering economy – airports began asking for more money from other service providers, like hotels and ground transportation companies.

“Fees [for operators] have risen at a rate much steeper than the cost of inflation,” says Mundy. “Operators should be paying for the use of the terminals and roadways, plus an additional 30% to help fund the airport. But the airports don’t look at it that way. Instead, they look at the number of trips and the number of vehicles and try to establish an average cost on that basis when they set their fees.”

A battle in January at Logan Airport left operators with fees that will double over two years, although airport officials tried to push through a 300% increase that would have gone into effect in April.

“We walked away feeling lucky,” says Larry White, new business development for Carey Boston. “We [at the New England Livery Association] pleaded our case at the statehouse and through the press – it could have been much worse.”

It’s not easy to fight City Hall, but Mundy recommends that operators facing inordinate fee increases argue that the fees they pay are not associated with funding roadways or parking facilities. “Operators shouldn’t have to fund a new runway with ground transportation fees,” he says.

LCT, in an exclusive report, chose the 11 largest airports, based on the number of travelers that pass through their gates, for this article.

Many of the airports we investigated share the same procedures. In those instances, we did not list redundant information.

Most chauffeurs arriving at the airport generally pull into a short-term parking or holding lot because airports no longer allow lengthy curbside pickups.

Chauffeurs can either park in designated lots and meet clients in baggage claim or they can wait in their vehicle to hear from the dispatcher that the client is ready with bags in hand.

The latter is often the fastest method, but it can be problematic and reduces the customer service touch once associated with a limousine or executive sedan airport pick up. If the client is not waiting where he should be, the car is often waved off the curb by enforcement agents.

Drivers generally have about 30 seconds before they are waved off by an enforcement agent. The chauffeur may be forced to circle the airport, which can take another 10 to 15 minutes. In some instances, chauffeurs must pay airport entry fees every time they circle.

Security is another serious issue. A Code Orange alert triggers random vehicle inspections at most airports. In addition, meeting clients at the gate is generally a thing of the past and the closest most chauffeurs or greeters can get to a gate is baggage claim.

“At LAX, this I actually a benefit for operators because it’s easier on the chauffeurs – they don’t have to walk nearly as far,” says Robert Vaughan, president of Best Transportation in Huntington Beach, Calif.

ATL Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson Airport
Parking: $1 per hour for the limousine and short-term lots.
Permit: $100 per vehicle per year, plus $20 per company per year.
Chauffeur ID Badges: $5.00 per year

Unique Pickup Details
Chauffeurs park their vehicles in a designated limo lot, sign in at the Ground Transportation Center and wait at a greeting area at the top of the baggage claim escalators, except at American Airlines, which has its own baggage claim area. For American Airlines clients, chauffeurs can wait in baggage claim after signing in.

If the limo lot is full, chauffeurs park in a short-term lot. They have one hour of waiting time at either lot. They will be asked to leave the lot if they wait longer. This rule is meant to reduce hustling and illegal operators.

Unique Security Measures
Once chauffeurs leave the limo lot and enter the terminal to retrieve their clients, they have 45 minutes to get back to their vehicle.

“We work with the industry, you are not automatically penalized,” says Winston Cooper, the airport’s Ground Transportation Manager.

Unique Rules for Ground Transportation
Background checks are required for an airport permit.

Airport Update
The airport will be accepting bids for an Automatic Vehicle Identification or transponder system that will replace the current toll system. The AVI will help prevent illegal operators from entering the ground transportation pickup areas. There is no timeline for implementation. It is still unclear whether parking fees will be affected.

Industry Involvement
The Atlanta Airport Transportation Task Force met twice a month in 2003. The task force includes taxi, limousine, hotel, police and airport representatives. “They ask our opinions when they are going to do something that will affect us or other airport operations,” says Jeff Greene, president of Greene Classic Limousine in Atlanta. The task force plans to meet monthly in 2004, according to Cooper.

Plans for a fifth runway, international concourse and a new ground transportation center are in the works for completion in 2006. The project is expected to cost more than $1 billion. It is not evident how it will affect operators.

The airport is also building an underground facility to comply with the FAA’s mandate to screen all baggage. Only commercial vehicles will be allowed curbside during construction, which is expected to take six to 12 months.

Operator Viewpoint
Greene’s biggest complaint related to the airport is a lack of enforcement against illegal operators – but he is happy with the relationship the airport has forged with the limousine industry.

ORD O’Hare Airport, Chicago
Airport fee: $2.00 per trip
Livery plates: $300 annually
Permit Sticker: $75 annually
Safety Inspection: $46 annually

Any vehicle that drives within the city limits of Chicago – including O’Hare – is subject to a $3.50 per day city tax. Payments are made on an honor system. Operators file reports on how many days their vehicles enter Chicago, and they can be audited.

Chicago Chauffeur’s License: $56 annual fee for intra-city driving. Chauffeurs must also attend a $56 class, which pays for their first year’s fee.

Unique Pickup Details
Chauffeurs pay a $2.00 fee to enter O’Hare and wait in a holding area. Clients let the dispatcher know they have their bags. The chauffeur can either greet the client in baggage claim or pick him up at the curb.

If the client is not at the curb, the chauffeur must circle and pay another $2.

To avoid this problem, Sal Milazzo, regional vice president Midwest for Carey International, often has a greeter meet the client. The greeter calls the chauffeur to let him know the client is ready. The client generally pays extra for the service.

Industry involvement
Airport officials periodically attend meetings held by the Illinois Limousine Association.

O’Hare is undergoing a multi-phase, $300 million Terminal Facade and Circulation Enhancement Project, updating its existing infrastructure, facade and roadways. It is scheduled for completion in 2007.

Phase 2 construction of the FACE Project began in December, 2003, and will continue through the summer of 2004. A canopy is being built over the upper level roadway in front of Terminals 2 and 3 to protect travelers from rain and snow. Minimal impact to motorists and travelers is expected because work is being conducted from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Travelers can call (773) 686-2200.

Operator Viewpoint
Milazzo’s biggest complaint is traffic congestion, which he calls unbearable during peak periods. “It has cost us customers because it’s easier to get a cab than to wait 40 minutes for your limo,” he says. “O’Hare is known for having the most congestion of any airport in the country.”

LAX Los Angeles Airport
Less Than 25 Passengers: $1.50 per trip (pickup only)
More than 25 Passengers: $2.25 per trip (pickup only)
Limo lot: No fee
Short term lot: $3 for first hour; $2 for each additional 30 minutes.

If your business is based in Los Angeles and serves LAX, you must pay a business tax or get an exemption letter. Businesses based outside of Los Angeles must get an exemption letter to perform work at the airport, according to Judy Christian, ground transportation manager for LAX.

Unique Rules for Operators
The South Coast Air Quality Management is requiring operators with more than 15 vehicles who perform work at the airport to purchase natural gas burning vehicles. This affects vans, but generally not limousine companies because natural gas burning limousines are unavailable. For more on this topic, visit and see fleet vehicle rule 1194.

Operator Viewpoint
The biggest problem at LAX is the customer pickup procedure, according to Robert Vaughan, president of Best Transportation in nearby Huntington Beach. Chauffeurs have 30 seconds to get their clients at the curb, he says.

“Enforcement agents are very strict and often rude. If you can not get the client in the vehicle in 30 seconds, they will wave you off. You must circle the airport, which can take up to 15 additional minutes.”

DFW Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport
Access Fee: $3.50 per trip (for pickup and drop off)
$50 new driver permit
$30 bi-annual driver renewal
Operating Authority: $360 annual fee, regardless of company or fleet size.
Meet & Greet:
$5 with three-day advanced notice
$7 with two-day advanced notice
$19 with one-day advanced notice
$15 for same day notice.
Operators must obtain a letter of permission to perform meet-and-greet service.

Unique Pickup Details
For sedans and passenger vans: Chauffeurs park in a one-hour lot and meet clients in baggage claim. The client is escorted to a curb in what is called the blue zone and waits while the chauffeur gets the vehicle.

Vehicles cannot be left unattended in the blue zone. If the blue zone is full, chauffeurs must circle the terminal. The blue zone is about 50 to 75 feet from baggage claim. Citations for loading passengers in the wrong zone start at $28.

For stretches, high-top vans and minibuses: Chauffeurs park on ramps that are between 50 and 200 yards from baggage claim. There is no cover against the elements.

Unique Security Measures
Because of its proximity to the terminals, the one-hour parking lot is closed down once security alerts reach Code Orange. Operators must park in the short-term lot, which is several hundred feet further from baggage claim.

Chauffeurs can meet clients at the gate, but must have a Non-SIDA badge. To get a badge, chauffeurs are required to undergo a fingerprint-based criminal history checks in accordance with FAA regulations.

Unique Rules for Operators
Drivers are tested for drugs and alcohol, and must pass an English proficiency test. They are also tested on their ability to read a book of addresses and maps of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, called a Mapsco.

Livery vehicles cannot be more than five years old when initially added to the fleet, they must be equipped with a fire extinguisher, and must pass an annual DFW mechanical inspection.

Industry Involvement
Airport officials hold scheduled general meetings with operators and the Dallas/Fort Worth Limousine Association about four times per year.

A new terminal is being built, but traffic is not being affected. The project, which started in 2000, is expected to be completed in 2005.

Operator Viewpoint
The airport is proactive about meeting with operators and keeping them apprised of issues that will affect them. However, the pickup process is confusing and moves too slowly, according to Robert Kirk, information systems manager for Silver West Limousine in Ft. Worth.

EWR Newark Liberty Airport in Newark, N.J.
JFK John F. Kennedy Airport in Jamaica, N.Y.
LGA LaGuardia Airport in Flushing, N.Y.

We have included Newark Liberty, JFK and LaGuardia airports under one heading because all three are operated by the Port Authority, which serves the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region.

Parking: $3 for the first half-hour; $6 for up to an hour; $3 for each additional hour for the short-term lots. Operators can use EZPass Plus to pay, which allows fees to be billed to a credit card.

Port Authority Permit: $272 per seat per year for shared ride and van/minibus services that carry eight or more passengers. A limited number of HOV permits are granted. Right now there are 11 companies serving the three airports. There are no openings.

Unique Pickup Details
Port Authority permit holders can wait curbside for up to 10 minutes for clients exiting baggage claim. They cannot leave their vehicles unattended.

Industry Involvement:
Airport officials at Newark keep members of the Limousine Associations of New Jersey informed and respond to operator complaints, according to Tim Rose, president of Flyte Tyme Transportation in Mahwah, N.J. LANJ members also receive e-mail updates of construction bulletins.

Quarterly meetings are held with operators to discuss issues and solutions. Separate meetings are held for HOV-permit holders.

Operators work with the Port Authority police to eliminate hustling and rid the airport of companies that don’t carry the proper licensing and insurance. Operators can report vehicles that do not have the appropriate limousine plates.

Traffic is being affected at JFK by construction at terminals seven, eight and nine.

Operator Viewpoint
Rose is happy with the EZPass parking program at Newark and the relationship airport officials maintain with operators. His only problem is that cell phones do not work in baggage claim at Terminal C because it is underground. A solution is being work out.

Michael Zappone, president of All Transportation Network in Newburg, N.Y., complains about access to Kennedy from the Van Wyck Expressway, the main road into the airport. “It often takes hours to get the airport,” he says. “There’s sometimes traffic at 3 in the morning.”

Bill Schoolman, president of Classic Transportation in Bohemia, N.Y, complains about LaGuardia’s hustler problem. “It’s the biggest underground economy in the world,” he says, “although it was worse 10 years ago.”

MIA Miami Airport
Per-trip entry fee for pick ups and drop offs:
$2.50 for sedans, limousines, vans and minibuses seating below 25
$6.00 for minibuses or motorcoaches (more than 25 passengers)

Short-term Parking: $2.50 for every half-hour.
Long-term parking: $4.00 per hour for first two hours.

$500 per company (one-time fee for companies with 10 or less vehicles)
$1,000 per company (one-time fee for companies with 11 or more vehicles)

The Florida Limousine Association has been trying to have the entry fee removed for customer drop offs.

“We understand having to pay a fee when you pick up, but it seems unfair to pay one when you are just dropping off,” says Carla Boroday, president of Associated Limousine in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Industry Involvement
Neil Goodman, president of Aventura Limousine in Aventura, Fla., describes the relationship the airport has with limousine companies as virtually non-existent.

“They have attended our association meetings. But nothing seems to get accomplished,” agrees Boroday.

Operator Viewpoint
It’s expensive to do business at the airport and enforcement is brutal, complains Goodman. “The [enforcement agents] are even rude to our clients,” he adds. “It’s a shame because the first thing a tourist sees when they come to Miami is the airport.”

If you take longer than 30 seconds to help your client and his baggage into your vehicle, you are often waved off the curb. You must circle and pay the entry fee again.

Exiting the parking facility is also difficult, adds Goodman. There are often traffic bottlenecks, and exiting can take up to 30 minutes during peak periods. “Clients sometimes lose patience and just go with a taxi,” says Goodman.

BOS Boston Logan

Limousines, sedans and vans: $2.25 (as of April)
Minibuses: $2.50 (as of April)
Buses: $4.50 (as of April)

Unique Pickup Details
Chauffeurs wait in a holding area called the limousine pool, where they can monitor flight information. When the flight lands, chauffeurs are given a ticket and can proceed to a limousine stand that is much closer to the terminal. Chauffeurs can wait up to 15 minutes at the stand, which is curbside. Once that time expires, they must circle the airport and start the process over. If the stand is full, they must circle the airport.

Unique Security Measures
While waiting at the limousine stand, chauffeurs must leave their trunks open.

Airport Update
Airport fees are increasing over the next two years: Limousine, sedan, van and minibus fees rise in April to $2.25 from $1.50 and reach $3 a year later. Bus fees rise in April to $4.50 from $3 in April and reach $7.50 a year later.

Industry Involvement
John Faro, who is in charge of ground transportation at Logan airport, meets with the New England Livery Association on a monthly basis. Traffic, construction, safety and parking issues are discussed.

Terminal A is under construction and is completely closed – flights have been diverted to other terminals. Roadway construction at Terminal C has forced chauffeurs to park in the long-term garage, instead of at the curb, after leaving the limousine pool. Construction at the airport has been ongoing for almost 10 years. Concurrently, there is a 10-year construction project in downtown Boston and on the highways leading to Logan called the Big Dig. Officials hope the projects will be completed by 2005.

Operator Viewpoint
White is happy with the relationship the airport maintains with the industry. However, it is expensive to operate at Logan, he adds. “We pay more than taxis and shuttles, yet our parking area is the farthest away from the terminals,” he says.

SFO San Francisco Airport

Per trip fee: $2.75
Short-Term Parking: $1 for under an hour; an additional $1 for every 20 minutes after that.

Unique Pickup Details
Sedans and limousines that seat up to 10 passengers park in a short-term limousine lot about a quarter mile from customs for international flights.

Sedans and limousines that hold up to 10 passengers park in a short-term lot about 50 yards from baggage claim for domestic flights. Clients can wait at the curb, but generally walk to the vehicle with their chauffeur because the lot is close by.

Superstretches, high-top vans and minibuses park in a courtyard about 100 yards from baggage claim for both international and domestic flights.

Unique Rules for Operators
Chauffeurs must keep what is called a way bill in the driver-side windshield – or risk getting a ticket. A way bill lists the customer name, date, number of clients, airline and expected arrival time.

Operator Viewpoint
Navigating the airport is easy because the signage is easily to understand, but parking gets expensive if you are there for more than an hour, according to Jamie Pacheco, head chauffeur at LeGrande Affaire. Retrieving clients from international flights often takes more than an hour.

DEN Denver Airport

Fees Access Fee:
Vehicles up to 15 people (including driver): $1.45 for first 15 minutes – plus $1.02 for each additional 10 minutes.
Vehicles up to 31 passengers (including driver): $2.90 for first 15 minutes – plus $2.03 for each additional 10 minutes.
32 or more passengers: $4.35 for first 25 minutes – plus $3.05 for each additional 10 minutes.
No charge for holding lot.
Security Badge: $50
Transponder Fee: $50 per car deposit for the tag (refundable), plus a $100 deposit for companies that have been in business for six months continuous operation in the last 12 months (refundable). New companies pay $500 deposit per vehicle (refundable). At end of first year, they may get a percentage of the money back.

Unique Pickup Details
There are two procedures:
Clients can get their luggage and go out to a limousine booth and tell the attendant the name of their limousine company. The vehicle is dispatched from a holding lot a mile away. Or operators can proceed to the curb outside baggage claim 15 minutes after the plane has landed, where they wait for client to walk out.

Clients decide ahead of time how they want to be picked up.

Chauffeurs and meet-and-greeters must wear security badges. Hydraulic metal barricades are installed at the commercial entry area to the airport. A badge is required to get through.

Airport Update
The airport is considering stopping operators from meeting clients inside baggage claim. A company that provides meet and greet service for operators would be hired.

The airport is trying to eliminate meet and greets for small groups. Large group meet and greets will be allowed, but airport officials must be notified ahead of time and provide passenger manifests, along with who will perform the meet and greet.

It hasn’t been determined what the cut-off number will be for how large a group must be to get a meet and greet, says Robert Danko, general manager of Towne & Country Limousines in Denver. “The airport is trying to figure out a way to make money on meet and greet service, and these are the options they are exploring,” adds Danko.

Industry Involvement
The Denver Airport Transportation Advisory Board meets every month with representatives from the limousine, taxi, shuttle, off-airport parking and hotel industries. Operators choose two representatives. A nomination form is sent to all local operators.

A construction project is under way to provide cover to portions of the terminal where travelers and vehicles would otherwise be subject to the elements – particularly snow. The project is expected to be complete in June. There has been no effect on traffic or parking, notes Danko.

Operator Viewpoint
Danko’s biggest complaint is that the barricades that allow entry into the airport occasionally malfunction. “Sometimes they won’t open for a badge or they get stuck in the up position,” says Danko. “One time the barricade popped up when a bus was about to go through and the bus was badly damaged,” he says.

A special thanks to Ray and Sandy Mundy at the Airport Ground Transportation Association,, for providing general information and details on the fees being charged at the airports in our study.

Related Topics: airports

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