Travel Tuesday Top 10: Airline Chauffeur Drive Service
A ticket in a premium class on an international flight means a rarefied experience in the air complete with fine dining, personalized service and comfortable seats. However, several airlines offer a taste of the luxury that awaits even before you set foot on the plane with chauffeur service - either to and from the airport, or from the terminal to the plane - that sets the entire flight experience apart. And some of them even make these services available to passengers flying on award tickets. Here are the top ten.
1. Lufthansa: Though first class passengers won’t get a ride from their address in Lufthansa's hub city of Frankfurt to the airport, when they arrive, their car will be parked for them, or their rental car returned. Then, from the airline’s standalone flagship First Class Terminal, passengers will get to experience German engineering at its finest as they are ferried directly to their waiting aircraft in a Mercedes S-Class sedan, a Porsche Cayenne or a Porsche Panamera and directly to the plane’s first-class entrance. No mixing with the hoi polloi while boarding.
First class passengers are transferred in Mercedes and Porsches from Lufthansa's First Class Terminal directly to their plane.
2. Etihad: Etihad Chauffeur is a complimentary service available to Diamond First and Pearl Business Class guests, as well as Gold Elite, Gold and Silver Etihad Guest elite members when traveling in Pearl Business or Diamond First for all points throughout their journey. Pearl Business Class Guests (Etihad Guest base members and non-members) can use it for up to 2 transfers per journey. The service is available in 25 cities worldwide including Abu Dhabi, London Heathrow, New York JFK, Chicago O'Hare, Bangkok, Sydney, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Moscow, Beijing, Shanghai and Mumbai among others. It can be booked online or by contacting an Etihad office at least 24 hours before your journey. Guests may travel beyond the distance restrictions outlined below upon payment of an additional charge to the driver. Etihad Chauffeur is also available to members of Etihad Guest redeeming their miles on Diamond First and Pearl Business class.
3. Oman Air: Oman is fast becoming one of the world’s next exotic jetset destinations, so no wonder Oman Air is ramping up its premium operations. First and business class passengers on Oman Air can now take advantage of chauffeur service in select destinations when traveling between Muscat and the following cities: Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, London, Bangkok, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Sri Lanka. The service is only for confirmed ticket-holders, so waitlisted, upgraded or award ticket passengers are out of luck.
Premium customers on Qatar Airways get shepherded from the Premium Terminal to their aircraft in BMW 7-series sedans.
4. Qatar: Like Lufthansa’s ground-service chauffeured cars, Qatar Airways does not offer city-to-airport transfers, but it does have a fleet of chauffeured BMW 7-series sedans to take first and business class passengers to and from the Premium Terminal at Doha International Airport and their aircraft for departure or arrival. This service is eligible for those on award tickets, just note that United is ending their relationship with Qatar on September 15, 2012.
5. Air Berlin: This little European airline that could is making inroads into territory once occupied by Europe's legacy carriers like Air France and Lufthansa. Case in point, it now offers chauffeured limousine service to its business class passengers traveling between Berlin-Tegel or Dusseldorf and Abu Dhabi. Passengers can be picked up within 40km of the Berlin airport and 60km of the Dusseldorf one, and when they arrive in Abu Dhabi, they have the choice to be chauffeured anywhere in the UAE, and the same is true upon return. This service is also available to to business class passengers on codeshare connections with Etihad Airways from Germany to Abu Dhabi (so from Frankfurt and Munich as well). The only caveat on the airline's information page is that it is not available to passengers who make their bookings via tour operators, so passengers should be able to take advantage of it on award tickets.
Emirates Chauffeur Service is available in over 55 cities.
6. Emirates: No surprise that one of the world's leading luxury airlines offers complimentary chauffeur-driven airport transfers to their First Class and Business Class passengers. Technically the rules state the service is not available on complimentary tickets or complimentary upgrades, but there have been reports of people still getting the service upon arrival in Dubai. Hey, it never hurts to ask! It's available in more than 55 cities, leaving the competition in the dust...so to speak. Transfers are available from a passenger's home, hotel or business to the airport, from the airport to their final destination and to and from the airport to a home or hotel when making a stopover. Chauffeur-drive can be requested online during booking, or when managing a booking. In Dubai, first class customers are provided with specially commissioned Mercedes vehicles, and business class customers are served by luxury Volvo cars (oh the humanity).
7. Virgin Atlantic: Though it doesn’t have a “first class,” Virgin Atlantic treats flyers of its “Upper Class” service to free transfers to and from the airport in chauffeur-driven cars that can carry up to a maximum of three passengers with three large suitcases (though you can make a request for a special car, of course). Travelers must be flying on an adult fare booked into J, D or C booking classes. Unfortunately, discounted Upper Class tickets in other fares (including award tickets in the G class) are not eligible. Transfers are available in Boston, Chicago, New York JFK and Newark, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Francisco, Washington DC, Antigua, Bridgetown, Cape Town, Delhi, Dubai, Gatwick, Grenada, Heathrow, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Johannesburg, Shanghai, St. Lucia, Sydney, Tobago, Tokyo and Manchester.
No word on whether you need to be wearing a Savile Row suit to take advantage of Virgin Atlantic's chauffeur service.
8. El Al: El Al offers chauffeur service for its first class passengers. Chauffeurs will be available both for airport drop-off from a hotel, business or home before departure and for pick-up upon arrival in the destination. In all, first class passengers are eligible for up to four rides per itinerary. To schedule the limousine service, passengers can book 24 hours a day by contacting the Shalom Service Lounge via telephone. However, this service is for full-fare first class passengers only so award tickets would not be eligible. Passengers who are upgraded to first class or who are flying on a first class bonus ticket are not entitled to this service. Transportation service at any overseas destination is provided for up to 100 kilometers/62 miles. The distance for transportation service from Newark Airport to Philadelphia and back has been extended to 161 kilometers/100 miles.
9. Jet Airways: This India-based carrier has won awards for its first-class suites, but that doesn’t mean they neglect their on-ground services. It offers complimentary limousine service for passengers traveling from Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad to London Heathrow for a distance of up to 50 driven miles to and from LHR Terminal 3. Information on whether this service is available to award ticket holders is scant. Premiere-class customers were also offered limousine service, but that has been discontinued as of June 1, 2012.
The party takes off before the flight does with Virgin Australia's chauffeur service.
10. Virgin Australia: Business class passengers traveling on international long-haul flights can pre-book a complimentary limousine service for transfers to and from the airport. On U.S.-bound flights, only J and C (paid) classes are eligible for this service. Customers with international business reward bookings made using Velocity Points are not eligible to receive this service. The limousine service is available to and from Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Los Angeles, and Abu Dhabi as well as airports in all other Australian capital cities when connecting between an international long-haul flight and a domestic flight operated by Virgin Australia. Within Australia, the service is for 60 km, in the US up to 50 miles, and in Abu Dhabi its good to anywhere in the United Arab Emirates. Those needing to travel beyond the complimentary service range will need to pay for the additional distance at the locally applicable rate. They may take other passengers with them, up to the maximum capacity of the vehicle. If two or more eligible guests travel together in the same vehicle in Australia or the United States, the complimentary distance might be extended.