LAX-it Lot Confronts Operators With Battle Of Perceptions

Martin Romjue
Posted on November 27, 2019
LAX arriving passengers can avoid the LAX-it lot, seen in its idyllic state in this official rendering. (image: LAWA)

LAX arriving passengers can avoid the LAX-it lot, seen in its idyllic state in this official rendering. (image: LAWA)

LOS ANGELES — By now we’ve seen the rampant local media coverage of the LAX-it ride lot, where transportation network companies (TNCs) and taxis must pick up arriving passengers who get to the lot via shuttles or on foot.

As Thanksgiving travel peaks today, all eyes will be on the lot next to Terminal 1 to see how it handles its first wave of holiday travelers since opening on Oct. 29. Its first days came as a shock to the arriving crowds waiting to hail rides, but airport officials quickly added more lanes to handle the demand.

I knew it was inevitable before a media scribe would unleash some crusty snark about what everyone in the luxury ground transportation industry knows is an alternative to the TNCs and taxis at the LAX-it lot.

From Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez’s Nov. 5 column:

“And guess what? High rollers are not feeling the pain. If you can afford to call for a limo at Los Angeles International Airport, you can still walk out of your terminal like a celebrity, get a curbside pickup and be whisked away in comfort. No shuttle or schlep to the pickup corral. No wasted time. No sweat.”

Oh, the injustice. Such inequity. Lopez reflexively put limo service off-limits, ruling it out as a viable option for much of the traveling public.

The passage underscores the constant stereotype spawned by the anti-elitists in the media about “limo service.” Many users of limos, better known as chauffeured cars, are not high-rollers or celebrities, and, in fact, are thoroughly upper-middle class. The rate on an airport transfer, while highest among all other forms of ground transportation, doesn’t cost much more than the rates on an Uber Black or a long taxicab ride, especially when you factor in tips. Limo rates also don’t surge at peak times.

We’re talking about airline passengers who often pay hundreds if not thousands on round-trip airfares, baggage fees, airport meals, as well as hotels, restaurants, rental vehicles, and Uber rides at their destinations, all in a booming, full-employment economy with massive stock market returns...yet they can’t afford ground transportation beyond a $20 Uber X ride in a little Prius C? They can’t handle a $90-$115 all-in-with-tip rate on a curbside pick-up and safe, direct ride home in a black sedan or SUV? Their answers are rooted more in habit and choice than feasibility.

The question points to the challenge and opportunity for Southern California operators. You are facing a travel market ignorant about the true costs, value, and benefits of chauffeured transportation, while having imbibed the media’s resentful narrative about it being high-strata mobility for the top 1%. I wonder if Lopez has ever tried the curbside black car pick-up.  

So what if the top 1% use limo service? They fly in first/business class too, and every time I go to the airport there’s a long list of passengers trying to use points and even pay to upgrade to first class, or just premium economy. Ordinary folks treat themselves to plenty of high-end restaurants and vacation in exotic destinations as well.

The opportunity for operators is to twist Lopez’s words into an accurate marketing pitch for “limo” service from LAX during the next few years as Los Angeles World Airports builds a new elevated transport network in the central terminal area.

“Get curbside pickup and be whisked away in comfort. No shuttle or schlep to the pickup corral. No wasted time. No sweat. And you don’t have to be a celebrity to afford it. Call [limo company] and book your rides now!”

Get the word out, California operators. New customers need you.

Related Topics: airports, building your clientele, California operators, client markets, ground transportation, LAX, Los Angeles operators, passenger safety

Martin Romjue Editor
Comments ( 2 )
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  • Mark Stewart

     | about 18 days ago

    Great article Martin! California operators should post this on your personal and company social media sites.

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