The Minibus Lady Talks Women In Buses

Lexi Tucker
Posted on August 28, 2019

Antoinette Gonzales, known as the minibus lady of Aries Charter Transportation (which also owns Gray Line Tours Chicago and The Trolley Car & Bus Co.)

Antoinette Gonzales, known as the minibus lady of Aries Charter Transportation (which also owns Gray Line Tours Chicago and The Trolley Car & Bus Co.)

NAPERVILLE, Ill. — Antoinette Gonzales, known as the minibus lady of Aries Charter Transportation (which also owns Gray Line Tours Chicago and The Trolley Car & Bus Co.), started off in the restaurant business at 16. There she discovered her love of the hospitality industry. However, as she got older, she realized she wanted more in life and knew it was time for a change.

From Food To Cars

When she was still in the restaurant business, Gonzales had a client who owned a limousine service who kept coming to the restaurant to ask her to work for him in sales and marketing. She took a leap of faith. It was a natural fit, as she had a love of cars and an affable personality that made people feel comfortable.

Gonzales started out working with limousines and minibuses, but left the industry for five years. When she came back, she got to use her prior experience with minibuses to excel with Aries, and has been with the company for nearly 14 years.

“I love being out and about and getting to meet people,” she says. “I love taking care of the clients I book and being a part of the repeat business we receive from them.” She’s had three weddings with one family, and one client has used Aries every year for 13 years for an annual family event. The challenge that comes with some runs makes every day exciting. “It’s always engaging to be onsite and coordinating a larger number of vehicles. I enjoy being there to make sure clients are taken care of.”

From Vehicles To People

Aries has a diverse fleet, including Van Hool and MCI motorcoaches, trolleys, vans, and transit buses for contract work. Affiliate partnerships allow them to also provide stretches, sedans, and SUVs to clients. However, she says the real service difference comes from the staff.

Aries has fleet vehicles for every need. (Photo: Aries)

Aries has fleet vehicles for every need. (Photo: Aries)

“In our industry, we’re all unique, but we aren’t. All of us have the goal of getting people where they need to go safely. It’s the quality of your employees that’s the differentiator. We have people who care about what they are doing and that make it their duty to interact with the passengers and ensure they have the best, most pleasant trip possible.”

Women Of Transportation

Gonzales has been a part of the Women in Buses Council since its inception. “I’m a great believer in joining organizations and associations not just to grow your business, but to network as well. It gives you a chance to influence the industry. I love the fact we get together and are supportive and get to commiserate, as well as the opportunity to mentor. It gives you the chance to inspire and show younger women coming into the industry they can make a living in transportation.”

She says the support and opportunities to work with each other has helped her build strong relationships with women all over the country.

Be Patient, Have Fun

For businesspeople looking to break into the industry, Gonzales says you’ll need two qualities: Patience and flexibility. “No matter what you set up now, it’s going to change in three minutes,” she jokes.

A couple of the company's trolleys. (Photo: Aries)

A couple of the company's trolleys. (Photo: Aries)

One of the challenges she’s faced over the years is earning the respect of some of her male chauffeurs. “We once did a program with eight vehicles, and at the end of job one particularly curmudgeonly chauffeur said, ‘For a female, you know what you’re doing.’ After that, whatever I needed I got,” she says.

The work atmosphere is better now, but she says another challenge has been learning to effectively work with employees of other generations who have different outlooks on the working world.

Above all, she says her greatest success has been thriving in the industry this long and having fun while doing so. “It can be extremely stressful, but if you work to find the fun in it, it becomes rewarding. I’ve gotten to do things I’d never have gotten to see and do if I was in any other industry.”

Related Topics: American Bus Association, buses, Chicago operators, customer service, Illinois operators, mini-buses, motorcoaches, women in the industry

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Anuj Patel

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