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Tesla Taxis, Uber and Luxury Rides: Driving the End-to-end Passenger Experience

Much attention is devoted to aircraft cabins, in-flight entertainment and new technology, all of which is long forgotten when a passenger deplanes and looks for their next ride. How are airports and airlines working with the automobile industry to enhance the “vehicular leg” of a flyer’s end-to-end passenger experience?

Luxury Tarmac Transfers
Photo: GM

Photo: GM

American Airlines has now joined United Airlines and Delta Air Lines in offering a luxury car service to priority travelers. Partnering with Cadillac, the airline will offer on-site airport transfers to elite travelers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport.

United Airlines’ chauffeured tarmac transfer partnership with Mercedes-Benz offers top travelers access to rides in Mercedes GL-Class vehicles, and was expanded this September, adding Denver International Airport to a list of locations that includes Chicago O’Hare, Newark Liberty, San Francisco International, George Bush Intercontinental in Houston, LAX, and Washington Dulles. Delta’s service, first introduced in Atlanta in 2011 as a “surprise service” for elite flyers, chauffeurs travelers in a Porsche Cayenne in New York, Minneapolis, Orlando, Los Angeles.

In Dubai, Emirates chauffeurs their first-class customers in Mercedes vehicles and their business-class customers in Volvos, while first and business-class travelers also have access to complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers in over 70 of the destinations they service worldwide.

Elite Lufthansa travelers in Frankfurt have the choice of being ferried directly to the aircraft’s first-class entrance in a Mercedes S-Class sedan, Porsche Cayenne, or a Porsche Panamera. At Doha International Airport, Qatar Airways transfers first and business class travelers to the Premium Terminal in BMW 7-series sedans.

These partnerships not only bolster the airline’s luxury image, they also augment loyalty programs with incentives, round out the end-to-end experience for high-paying clientele, and offer car companies a exclusive platform to reach their target demographic with exclusive deals, test drives and more.

The Taxing Taxi Debate

Luxury partnerships go a long way to enhance an airline’s brand, but with the introduction of ride-sharing options like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, airlines and airports have been forced to re-evaluate the options available for their taxi-commuting clientele.

Taxiing Gets Uber Complicated

Though banned from most airports in the United States, employees at Uber’s headquarters are researching ways that the service can revolutionize transportation to the airport – one idea involves having people who are already driving passengers to an airport drive arriving passengers home for a fee.

Pressure from local taxi companies and airports have made airlines slow to embrace ride-sharing services, but it likely won’t be long before more airlines follow the lead set by United Airlines in August when they partnered with Uber to allow customers to book rides through United’s mobile app. United and Uber worked around the city-regulated ban in Chicago (United’s largest hub) by finding a loophole that exempts UberTaxi, one of Uber’s options, from being prohibited.

For it’s own part, Uber has ventured into tailoring to higher-range passengers with its UberBlack and UberLux services. UberBlack offers Mercedes E-class, BMW 5-series and Audi A6 black cars, while UberLux’s fleet includes Mercedes S-class and BMW 7-series limos, Porsches, and Jaguars.

Schiphol’s Tesla Taxis

Officials at Schiphol International Airport have taken taxiing into their own hands by opening a concession that will operate a fleet of over 100 electric Tesla Model S luxury vehicles. The service will be operated by three local taxi companies, chosen for their contributions to the sustainability and environmental endeavors at Schiphol. The taxi service includes access to 4G of free Wi-Fi, complementing the free Wi-Fi already offered at the airport.

The announcement of the Tesla Taxis coincides with Tesla’s plans to open 25 Supercharging stations in 11 countries and Schiphol’s ongoing environmental campaign. The airport has not banned ride-sharing companies like Uber, which services Schiphol to Amsterdam with a flat rate of 45 Euros for UberBlack and 55 Euros UberLux. Tesla Model S will be available for standard meter fares, with a minimum fee of 25 Euros.