Top Airports Provide Optimum Access for Livery Companies

Tom Mazza, Contributing Editor
Posted on March 1, 1998

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.

Metro Airport, Detroit, MI: Metro Airport is booming. Nonetheless, the facility is a source of frustration for many area limousine companies. The Airport Authority has an exclusive arrangement with one company known for its quality vehicles and trained chauffeurs.

However, every other premium sedan provider in the Detroit area is given less access to arriving passengers. If you own a limousine service in Detroit and you are licensed, have livery insurance, and treat your employees fairly, you should not be relegated to short-term parking and be forced to walk your clients through a gauntlet of traffic islands to their “luxury vehicle.”

“My vehicles are forced to use short-term parking,” says Robert Stephenson, president of Arbor Limousine Service, who has 15 vehicles. “We have to walk our clients across islands of traffic to get to our vehicles. If the client needs curbside pickup, we have to pull up and wait with the vehicle. If you leave the vehicle to assist the client with luggage, you are going to get towed.”

According to Stephenson, operators have fewer rights than the general public. “There is a hotel at the airport that bans commercial vehicles,” he says. “I am better off picking up a friend myself in my personal vehicle than using one of my livery vehicles and a professional chauffeur.”

Other cities have arrangements similar to Detroit. Nonetheless, few restrict passenger pickup by other livery companies. Indy Connection/Carey Indiana in Indianapolis, IN, dominates the Indianapolis market, but small operators still have preferred access to arriving passengers.


Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, Ft. Lauderdale, FL: The same situation as the Detroit airport. Airport personnel were judged pleasant, and police “professional,” but Yellow Cab and Tri-County Transportation have exclusive rights to pick up in the airport. All other fully licensed, insured limousine companies must park in short-term parking, find their clients, and walk their passengers to the lot. A chauffeur does have the option to walk his client outside, retrieve his vehicle, and return for the pickup.

Tri-County outbid SuperShuttle with a $300,000 offer for premium access. Mark Levitt, Ft. Lauderdale SuperShuttle president, believes the system is fair. “There are haves and have notes,” he says. “Every other company had a chance to bid. When a company pays for access, they deserve it” However, a major competitor disagrees. “I pay permit fees to do business in Ft. Lauderdale. They turn around and put me in short-term parking. That’s unfair.”

Long Beach Municipal Airport, Long Beach, CA: Long Beach Municipal Airport subjects livery operators to a multi-level process to use the airport. Long Beach requires limousine services to register with the city manager and be approved by the planning commission. Livery vehicles must display special stickers on any vehicle doing business at the airport. This process can take more than one month.

The Long Beach Airport levies a $300 fine against a legitimate operator with a valid PUC license, livery insurance, and workers’ compensation if the sedan is not registered.

Dan Amado, president of Concierge Limousine in Seal Beach, CA, says city officials are very cooperative. They even walked him through the registration process. “John Kauffman with the Airport Authority was great,” he says. “However, the process is still time consuming.”

“We do very little business at Long Beach,” says a major Long Beach-area operator. “It’s difficult and expensive to register every vehicle. We just paid a $300 ticket. The airport police were very nasty and aggressive. It’s unfair that legal companies are treated much more harshly than gypsy operators.”

According to a major meeting planner, it is difficult to find companies with permits at Long Beach. “We discourage groups from hiring ground transportation companies,” he says. “I just got a call from a 300 person group coming to the area. I don’t know if I can find ground transportation.”

John F. Kennedy Airport, Queens, NY: JFK has inexpensive parking and management who are receptive to the industry. Why are there difficulties?

  • It is impossible to get in and out of this airport. Traffic is so congested that New York operators must allow significant, often unprofitable lead time for each trip. “JFK has many 6:00 p.m. departures and 4:30 p.m. arrivals,” says a Manhattan sedan provider. “We sometimes need two-and-a-half hours for a 13-mile trip. You cannot plan anything with JFK trips.”  

Jack Foley, executive vice president for Aer Lingus, the Irish national airline, told The Asbury Park Press that the most frequently asked question about JFK is: “When will your airline fly from Newark to Ireland?” The airliners passengers, almost without exception, prefer Newark to Kennedy.

  • New York is the unofficial gypsy capital of the world. An insurance company president estimated that half of the companies in New Jersey and almost as many in New York City are improperly registered or insured. The Airport Authority discourages gypsies, but they are ubiquitous. Every company surveyed that does business at Kennedy says their passengers are approached by gypsy operators on a daily basis.


According to the Department of Transportation, the following airports had the most passengers in 1996. Figures represent the number of passengers in millions.

2O'Hare AirportChicago, IL69.1
2Hartsfield AirportAtlanta, GA63.3
3Dallas/Ft. Worth AirportDallas, TX58
4Los Angeles International AirportLos Angeles, CA57.9
5San Francisco International AirportSan Francisco, CA39.3
6Miami International AirportMiami, FL35.5
7Denver International AirDenver, Co32.3
8John F. Kennedy AirportNew York, NY31
9Metro AirportDetroit, MI30.6
10McCarron AirportLas Vegas, NV30.5


Many airports across the country make every effort to form a lasting partnership with limousine operators. The following four key factors can make or break a relationship between an operator and an airport:

  • Reasonable Fees and Access to Passengers
  • Specific Meet and Greet Areas in the Terminal
  • Discouraging Illegal Competition
  • Regular Meetings With Industry Members

The following comments pertaining to specific airports reflect how airports try to make the fives of limousine operators and their chauffeurs easier:

Newark International Airport, Newark, NJ: “Our members like this airport for a variety of reasons. First, a $4 fee gives drivers as much time as they need to pick up their clients. We have underground parking, designated lots, and can pull curbside to pick up passengers. The signage is good and airport personnel are generally helpful.” — Stephen Spencer, president, Limousine Association of New York and owner, London Towncars, Inc., Long Island City, NY.

Seattle/Tacoma International Airport, Seattle, WA: “We can pay $2 to park for 40 minutes. Also, we can pull up to the curb outside of baggage claim. If the driver has a security clearance issued by the Port, they can park just outside the ground transportation areas for up to 30 minutes” — Jayelyn Thresher, president, Limousine Association of Washington and owner, BryLyn’s Chauffeured Transportation, Bonney Lake, WA.

Douglas International Airport Charlotte, NC: “The city’s popularity has I significantly increased in the 1990s. Airport pickups became much more difficult. The Airport Authority. in conjunction with the North Carolina Limousine Association, created a system of allocating curb space and issuing permits. These permits are free and readily issued by the Airport Authority to limousine companies. They show proof of commercial insurance, correct license plates, etc. The airport officials have always treated us as partners and they know how important it is for visitors to be treated well”—Joan Labuda, president, North Carolina Limousine Association, and owner, Coachman Limousine Service, Statesville, NC.

Orlando International Airport, Orlando, fl: “Chauffeurs may meet and greet arriving passengers at a designated area located at the bottom of the escalators leading to baggage claim.

This makes it easy for the client to find the chauffeur and it helps the Airport Authority control illegal solicitations.”—Rick Gonzalez, executive director, Florida Livery Association.

Denver International Airport, I Denver, CO: “Livery vehicles use automatic vehicle identification tags (AVI). A gypsy cannot gain access to the commercial lot. Lack of an AVI is a red flag for authorities. Fines can be as high as $1,200, which is an excellent deterrent.” —Todd Miller, president, Limousine Association of Colorado, and president, Ute City Limousine, Aspen, CO.

O’Hare Airport, Chicago, IL: “O’Hare has regular monthly meetings which are-open to members of the ground transportation industry. These meetings are attended by the city agencies that staff the airport daily. This has helped to establish a good relationship with the airport over the past five years.” — Marty Olliges, president, Illinois Limousine Association, and owner, Silver Fox Limousine, St Charles, IL


The following information details fees charged for sedan pickups at the nation’s “Top 10” busiest airports:




(exclusive any annual permit fees)

1O’Hare AirportParking Islands$2 per arrival plus
2Hartsfield AirportLimousine lot$2 per trip
 Atlanta, GA  
3Dallas/Ft. Worth AirportCurbside$3.50 per trip
 Dallas, TX  
4Los Angeles International AirportShort-term parking$2.50 to $4.50
 Los Angeles, CA  
5San Francisco International AirportGarage park$3
 San Francisco, CA  
6Miami International AirportShort-term parking$2 to $12
 Miami, Fl  
7Denver International AirportCommercial lot$2.50
 Denver, CO  
8John F. Kennedy AirportCommercial lot$4
 New York, NY  
9Metro AirportShort-term parking$2
 Detroit, MI(majority of companies 
10McCarron AirportCurbside parking$2
 Las Vegas, NV  


In June of 1997, Limousine & Chauffeured Transportation Magazine surveyed associations and individual operators in every major market across the country. More than 130 significant players were contacted, including association presidents, company presidents, chauffeurs, and airport administrators.

Airport administrators and local operators have a sometimes fragile relationship with each other However, LCT believed an accurate, unbiased look at our nation’s airports would provide long-term benefit for our readers. Further, LCT wanted to identify and show examples of what makes for good livery-friendly airports.

LCT, with the help of significant industry and airport players, designed a rating system covering seven factors:

  • Ease or difficulty of access. How easy was it to enter and exit the airport due to traffic, construction, etc.?
  • Access to arriving passengers.
  • Distance from meeting client to vehicle.
  • Airport fee for sedan pickup (also considered annual per-vehicle permit costs).
  • Airport’s effort to eliminate gypsy operators.
  • General demeanor of airport personnel/policies.
  • Airport Authority’s willingness to work with local associations and/or representative companies.

Related Topics: airport fees, airport rules, airports

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