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Blacklane Eases Chauffeured Bookings

Martin Romjue
Posted on January 13, 2020
Adam Parken, head of global communications for Blacklane. (LCT file photo)

Adam Parken, head of global communications for Blacklane. (LCT file photo)

If you could find a ground transportation segment somewhere between a traditional affiliate network and a TNC, it would be one increasingly defined by Blacklane.

The global chauffeured luxury app portal has carved out a growing worldwide niche as a faster, easier chauffeured transportation network. One of its executives, Adam Parken, head of global communications for the Berlin, Germany-based provider, joined the board of Global Ground Transportation Institute last year because of its appeal as a builder of a broader ground transportation industry.

“Blacklane benefits from different business models and how travel works,” Parken says. “It helps everyone focus on the types of rides where they excel. Blacklane can learn where chauffeured rides provide the most value and find new markets. There’s an opportunity to build a cooperative eco-system so we are helping people get around better and ways the find the best ways.”

A Luxury Alternative

Blacklane sees itself as complementary — not competitive — with transportation network companies (TNCs). Its average trip distance of 15-25 miles and average ride time of 45 minutes contrast with the mostly shorter hops TNCs serve in busy metro areas.

Where the service aims its competitive reach is at the legacy limousine business, Parken says. “We have the same high-quality duty of care, service-minded chauffeurs, and new vehicles. We provide the chauffeured service people have come to expect, but at a price and ease of use that makes it more accessible and affordable to more people.”

Blacklane had experimented with a premium economy version of its service in 10 cities with smaller, lower-priced vehicles such as the Toyota Avalon and professionally dressed drivers in polo shirts. Although it was profitable, Blacklane executives felt it would compromise the brand’s values and perceptions, Parken says. “We haven’t looked back. We consider ourselves in the chauffeured business. We’ll continue to grow and build this market.”

Blacklane has refined its luxury offerings, diversified fleet vehicles, and expanded its roster of cities it serves across the U.S. in recent years in widening its appeal to corporate travel buyers looking for easier bookings and all-in rates. (Blacklane photo)

Blacklane has refined its luxury offerings, diversified fleet vehicles, and expanded its roster of cities it serves across the U.S. in recent years in widening its appeal to corporate travel buyers looking for easier bookings and all-in rates. (Blacklane photo)

Corporate Inroads

Blacklane claims to save Fortune 500 companies time and money with its chauffeured service blended with the ease of technology. “We are at less than half the costs of average fares for legacy limousine companies. You see the fare once and that’s what it will be and what you will pay. It’s a cost certainty to travel managers.” Blacklane avoids the extra add-on fees, often in the form of STC, fuel, airport, and/ or admin fees.

“No matter where you book, we have the consistency of experience,” Parken says. “Some of the legacy companies will have different cancellation policies and lead times, and different policies for countries and regions. For us, it’s simple. You can book changes and cancel one hour ahead of time for any type of one-way drive.” That booking process averages less than a minute, and third-party bookings are possible.

Pricing Paces

In addition to leveraging spare capacities and fleet downtime, Blacklane upends traditional chauffeured pricing and booking model. Through its thousands of partners worldwide, Blacklane puts ride and reservation requests out to its independent chauffeurs for bid. The auction price keeps rising until a chauffeur accepts it. There are no maximum auction prices and no minimum number of rides chauffeurs must accept. All of Blacklane’s partners are commercially licensed, insured, background checked, and legitimate.

“We use their downtime in a way that gives customers a much lower rate,” Parken says. “There nearly always will be a match between chauffeur availability and guest ride times. We offer market-based rates for those times. Chauffeurs make more money and guests get a high-quality ride at a more affordable price. Chauffeurs have the full right to accept or decline any ride option that comes from Blacklane, and pick rides they want at fares that works for them.”

Eco-Focus

In addition to all-in pricing and ease of technology access, Fortune 500 companies and corporate clients are increasingly looking for environmentally sustainable suppliers who offset carbon emissions, Parken says.

Blacklane has been carbon neutral since 2017 for its rides and operations, working with Carbon Footprint Limited in the U.K. to offset emissions. “They do a variety of projects around the world, independent of any government mandate. We have chosen to fund a wind farm near Pune, India.”

Blacklane submits to the firm the distance of each ride and make/model of the vehicle which it uses to calculate the emissions offsets. Blacklane already offers electric Tesla vehicles in 33 cities.

“We plan to add more vehicles as automakers offer more chauffeur quality green vehicles makes and models that meet standards,” Parken says.

Future Plans

Blacklane is considering including more vehicle models to offer larger vans and SUVs for group travel. “One of the things we need to do is segment vehicles better for guests,” Parken says.

Now with Blacklane for the last five years, Parken has relocated to Berlin, where he gets to work at the company’s headquarters and help shape its future growth. The company has 420 employees from 70 different nationalities, making it a truly international company. Last fall, Blacklane opened an office in Santa Monica, Calif., with 20 employees and plans to open a branch in New York.

In recent years, Blacklane has moved beyond its base of cities connected directly by international airports into more than 60 second- and third-tier cities in the U.S., such as Palm Springs, Calif., Raleigh, N.C., Indianapolis, Ind., and Kansas City, Mo.

The company is pausing its airport concierge and lounge services so it can rebuild them from the ground up, Parken says. “We have successfully demonstrated the proof-of-concept over the last 16 months, and we are more confident than ever about their importance to our guests.”

Blacklane plans to integrate the airport concierge and lounge services with its chauffeur service on their homepage and apps. “We will also make it easier for chauffeurs and airport concierges to communicate and escort guests through airports.”

Parken grew up in Dallas. He also once served as a batboy for the Texas Rangers. After graduating from Boston University with a degree in journalism, he worked for a few public relations agencies and then moved onto communications positions at Tekelec and Oracle. He gained experience in a variety of industries, including data security, military contracting, and semi-conductor technology.

GGTI supports Parken's vision of improving chauffeured service and all forms of ground transportation through new networking and education.

"The best way for everyone to flourish is if all of us continue to up our game on the road, online, on the phones, and behind the scenes. There's no better way than learning from experts on the supplier and vendor sides, with all of us sharing our unique insights and successes from around the world."

Related Topics: affiliate networks, apps, Blacklane, German operators, Global Ground Transportation Institute, Global operators, industry leaders, service pricing

Martin Romjue Editor
Comments ( 2 )
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  • adir

     | about 9 days ago

    honestly there's always gonna be bottom feeders in our industry. blacklanes' job has been to digitally aggregate those bottom feeders and have them falling over each other for the lowest possible rate...have fun guys!!

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