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Blacklane (www.blacklane.com) now reaches 190 cities worldwide, and added the Las Vegas market to its metro roster in February. The service is not an instant demand ground transportation app per se, such as Uber or Lyft, but it can get a vehicle to a client in about an hour to an hour and a half depending on local availability.
The Berlin-based company has been on a growth spurt during the last two years as it widens its market footprint far beyond Europe to 50 countries. Two-thirds of its clients are business travelers while one-third are leisure travelers. Although it doesn’t disclose total number of partners, it estimates access to “tens of thousands” of chauffeurs and fleet vehicles worldwide and claims “a few thousand” U.S.-based partnering companies and chauffeurs.
“We have a program to help our partners grow their business that follows our standards,” said Carsten Kahner, Blacklane’s director of affiliate management. “Our main goal is to establish long-lasting relationships and we want them to have consistency.”
As part of its vetting process, Blacklane keeps a database of all federal, state and regional-level rules and regulations that apply to limousine companies. Every chauffeur partnering with Blacklane, whether independent or employed by a limousine company, must submit documents verifying driver and vehicle licenses and insurance coverages. The Blacklane team cross-checks those documents and conducts background checks on applicants. It interviews prospective chauffeurs and puts them through a multi-step training program based on its global standards for chauffeured service.
Operators and chauffeurs partnered with Blacklane may choose when, where and how often they wish to designate excess fleet inventory or downtime to Blacklane. They are in control 24/7.
Runs & Rates
Once Blacklane receives a reservation request, available affiliated Blacklane chauffeurs “bid” on the ride, with the rate rising every few minutes until a chauffeur deems it profitable and accepts it via the app. That explains why Blacklane requires at least a one-hour minimum lead time for reservations. It’s not just about finding the right vehicle and getting it to clients in time; it also allows chauffeurs to choose to accept the rides at locally flexible rates in real time.
“They have the freedom to accept rates, whether higher or lower,” Kahner said. “We offer them incremental rates and revenues. It’s an independent business model where our providers have their own business and already are successful with their customers. We bring them additional rides and customers.”
Blacklane’s compensation split varies by city and season, said Adam Parken, the director of communications and public relations. “For example, drivers are more willing to accept rides at lower rates in off-peak times, while they have higher rates during peak season.”
All-in rates for clients are fixed and include taxes, fees and gratuities. The reservation-formatted app does not allow users to see how many vehicles are in the vicinity, as with the Uber app. And although a client also cannot see a vehicle headed to a pick-up location, Blacklane sends clients text updates about pending pick-ups and chauffeur information.
Blacklane tiers its service into three levels: Business Class, Van/SUV Class and First Class, with varying rates:
• Business Class, the most common service level, includes vehicles such as the Lincoln MKS, Lincoln MKT Town Car, and Cadillac XTS livery sedan.
• SUV Class includes the Lincoln Navigator SUV.
• First Class mostly offers BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans. Outside of the U.S., Blacklane’s Global Service includes Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedans.
For limousine operators, Blacklane can provide a complementary option to use idle or excess fleet vehicles that fit in with a company’s daily operations flow. Louis Avina, CEO and owner of the three-vehicle Veranda Prestige Motor Car in Lakewood, Calif., credits about 20% of his overall business to Blacklane.
“With Blacklane, I supplement my work and fill in voids during the days, weeks, and months ahead,” Avina told LCT. “I can better forecast my work. I partner with them because they are flexible. You take what you want. They are not an on-demand service like Uber.”
Veranda Prestige averages about 10-15 Blacklane runs per week, and estimates his company has provided about 1,400 to 1,500 rides via Blacklane since he signed up with them about two years ago. An ideal situation Avina described is when a chauffeur has to drive a client from LAX south to Newport Beach. Instead of dead-heading back to Los Angeles County, the chauffeur can pick up an Orange County Blacklane client on the way.
“A car in motion is making revenue,” said Avina, who started his company in late 2013. “If it’s sitting in a warehouse, it just looks pretty and there’s no money coming in. In Blacklane’s reverse auction process, jobs come up for bids on a daily basis. If I’m looking to forecast the week ahead, if I can pick up four, five, six jobs from Blacklane, and get them at a fair price, then I’d rather have a percentage of that than 0% of $1,000.”
Like many small-fleet operators, Avina runs his business out of his home and focuses on highly personalized service. “Right now, I’m am owner, COO, dispatcher, coordinator, payroll clerk — I do everything. It’s a 24/7 job. I take pride in it because it’s about delivering service to a customer, and all about attitude and morale. I don’t want to grow to 20 cars or 30 cars. You lose touch with reality after that. The customer wants personalized business.”
Blacklane Sample Rates
All-inclusive rates for Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, Chicago and Miami in the chart below:
• LA #1: 444 North Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills to LAX
• LA #2: LA Convention Center to LAX
• NY #1: Freedom Tower to LGA
• NY #2: United Nations to JFK
• Dallas #1: Hilton Anatole to DFW
• Dallas #2: Omni Dallas Hotel to DAL
• Chicago #1: Sears Tower to ORD
• Chicago #2: McCormack to MDW
• Miami #1: W South Beach to MIA
• Miami #2: Convention Center to MIA
Blacklane Moves Into Corporate Events Planning
While Uber may be going for the business travel market with its tiered service approach, Blacklane debuted a corporate meetings and event service Feb. 24 across all 50 countries it serves.
Related LCT article: Blacklane Launches Events Service
Blacklane now handles events that involve thousands of people, such as financial roadshows, sales meetings, government meetings, trade shows, conferences, holiday parties and sporting events. Event planners may reserve rides in multiple cities and countries for traveling groups. Organizers may make special requests, such as buses, shuttles and long distance rides in combination with Blacklane’s standard vehicles. A multi-lingual staff can manage the ground transportation process. Services include booking vehicles, modifying reservations, on-site coordination and real-time service control.
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