Operations

Who Will Grow Your Luxury Service?

Martin Romjue
Posted on July 2, 2018
At JFK Int'l: Plenty of room. What an airport lounge should look like. The luxury transportation industry needs to preserve its version of the original first class lounge. (Flickr.com photo by TravelingOtter)

At JFK Int'l: Plenty of room. What an airport lounge should look like. The luxury transportation industry needs to preserve its version of the original first class lounge. (Flickr.com photo by TravelingOtter)

LOS ANGELES — On a recent chauffeured ride to a terminal at Los Angeles International Airport, we got stuck in the infamous departure loop crawl, thanks to the flotsam of Uber and Lyft vehicles clogging the lanes.

It’s a rare event when I don’t have to drive, so I enjoyed being able to linger and stare out the window of an SUV at the people getting picked up and dropped off. At two different terminals, I noticed crowds of travelers standing along an empty stretch of curb, some with faces pinched or annoyed while looking up and down from their smartphones.

“They’re all waiting for Uber rides,” our chauffeur commented. “Uber X rides,” I clarified, since LAX requires the cheaper Uber X and Lyft services to pick up arriving passengers on the departure loop. The chauffeur then mentioned how many of those irritated riders on this holiday night would be paying surge rates that could equal the cost of an Uber Black or Lux ride, a taxicab, or even a chauffeured service. “What suckers,” I thought. “Do they know?”

Growing The Marketing Message

While you could dismiss the travelers as “not our clients,” I thought of a potential angle to try to maybe win a few over. Most of the bargain-minded passengers who think it’s hip to wait along a curb for however long to hop a cheap ride will likely never evolve into loyal luxury transportation clients. But there is always a remnant of smarter, standout potentials in any crowd.

So far, the leading messages coming from our industry on transportation network companies (TNCs) are PSAs starring actress Pamela Anderson about the safety risks of TNC drivers. The latest Matrix-themed video skit goes a step further, highlighting the unfair and deceptive ways TNCs treat their drivers.

Those artfully crafted messages no doubt resonate and get some of the public to think, and maybe even reconsider their traveling choices. But your average traveler standing along a curb likely thinks a criminal assault won’t happen to them and doesn’t care enough about the labor situation of the drivers to ditch TNCs. They just want the convenience of a cheap ride. . . until it isn’t cool or convenient anymore, or at least not all the time.

Reaching Them Where It Matters

At LCT, our magazine and shows promote the messages of building service quality and convenience, while emphasizing the advantages of safety. Why not take industry promotion a step further and aim for the cranky riders along the busy airport curb?

Instead of scaring them about dramatic scenarios, why not shame or humor them into using a more convenient and sensible alternative? Picture a PSA or video using the targeted approach we’ve seen so often in all types of clever advertising: You’re getting left behind, left out for not using this product or service. You’re not hip, you look like a loser. I think back to those old American Express travelers checks ads of desperate, abandoned tourists plucked of their wallets and purses. Vacation ruined. Or countless breath mint and mouthwash ads about missed social opportunities.  

For luxury ground transportation operators, that means selling the image of comfort, ease, and convenience — persuade travelers to pay more for something that makes them feel better. You connect deeper with consumers when you relate to them on their everyday needs and desires: Show how your service relieves the tired airport traveler delayed getting home; helps the hurried executive frustrated at a driver mindlessly following GPS on a longer route; assures the young single woman sitting next to the smelly creeper dude (or driver) in an Uber Pool ride. The scenes here could be endless.

While we may never want to cheapen service to win over the masses, converting a few into top percenters would be an added benefit.

Beware The Travel Lounge Lizards

My curbside journey reminded me of the demise of first class airport lounges. A Wall Street Journal article (“The Airport Lounge, Once A Refuge, Is A Total Zoo”) reported how the influx of credit card benefit members and freebie pass holders have altered the ambience and service of the once-classy airport lounge.

Card holders bring in multiple “friends,” as visitors increasingly find every seat, stool, and table taken. In the article, one guest downs three glasses of wine before a flight; others pile up and pocket free food; a mother changes her diapered toddler atop a bar. The lounges offer cheap snacks instead of the once hot buffet meals.

Think of these crowded lounges as the Ubers of waiting areas — a cool concept cheapened and gone awry.

The luxury transportation industry needs to preserve its version of the original first class lounge by reaching those travelers who would want to pay for it because they can see a better experience. The fact so many travelers are stuffing airport lounges proves the potential here. By prioritizing quality and personal service, you appeal to a basic need in human nature: To be valued, look distinct, and feel smarter than the next guy.

You may even find a few fuming along a curb.

Related Topics: airports, customer service, first class, industry trends, LCT editor, luxury market trends, luxury travel, Martin Romjue, VIP service

Martin Romjue Editor
Comments ( 3 )
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  • Steve Felt

     | about 2 years ago

    Sounds so petty. If you’re a luxury car service and can’t compete against UberX then you should get out of the business. Leave it to the pros, we are doing just fine. By the way if you’re interested in adding UberBlack to your service use this code when signing up and get up to a $650 bonus. ODH9H

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