Magazine for the professional limousine, charter and tour industry.
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32 LIMOUSINE, CHARTER & TOUR SEPTEMBER 2016 WWW.LCTMAG.COM BUS/VAN: OPERATIONS way a high level of service can be supplied to customers," Qua says. "If you are putting trans- fers back to back, it just doesn't work. If we had to do it again, we wouldn't sell transfers at all, even at a two-hour minimum, because many transfers that nor- mally only take 15 minutes took a lot longer than two hours." John Donohoe, president of Sterling Limousine in Wright- stown, Penn., saw an incred- ible demand for transportation during the DNC. "We broke all kinds of records with revenue, and ended up using about 25% more than our entire fleet," he says. "We subcontracted some vehicles, rented from rental car agencies…basically anything and everything we could to meet the demand." He learned to expect the unex- pected, and to make sure you get everything you've discussed in writing, especially when dealing with affiliates. "Make sure your cancellation policy is clear as well," adds Ron Robinson, opera- tions manager for the company. Mary Jo and Tony Mazzarel- la, director of sales and general manager for American Limousine Service in Cleveland, ran about 85 vehicles and complimented how the city handled the RNC lo- gistics. "The way it was situated, everything was in a condensed area and they really had good control over traffic," Mary Jo says. Adds Tony: "The preparation was more stressful than the ac- tual event. We learned as long as you are prepared, you can handle any event that comes your way. The week leading up to it, our nerves were on edge. We discovered once we got into the routine and every- one was comfortable with the routes we were taking, every- thing was on autopilot as far as everyone knowing what was expected of them. We just had to make sure dispatch stayed on top of everyone." Despite the superior ser- vice of chauffeured operations, Uber was still noticeable and in demand in the Philadelphia area, says Mike Barreto, Phila- delphia branch manager for Flyte Tyme Worldwide, based in Mahwah, N.J. "Because TNCs are definitely playing a bigger part in large events, you have to do everything pos- sible to protect your business and your clientele. When these events do come through, you'll always be a loyal client's first option. Don't give anyone else the opportunity to do the same job better." Larry Chrystal, president of A1 Mr. Limo in Wickliffe, Ohio, ran about 25 vehicles and no- ticed restaurants and other local businesses didn't see as many customers as they thought they would during the RNC. "Take the LCT Shows for example," Chrystal says. "We are up at 8 a.m. going to edu- cational sessions and network- ing. Then we go out at night to one of the parties they have preplanned. You don't go out and spend a lot of money and time. I think that's essentially what happened here. Even our casino, which is close to the Quicken Loans Arena, didn't do great business." A1 Mr. Limo avoided book- ing its "bread and butter" wed- dings business on the Saturday before the RNC, anticipating event demand. "Knowing what we know now, we wouldn't have done that," Chrystal says. "We would have catered more to our regular customers on Saturday and taken smaller con- tracts earlier on." Challenges Overcome One of the biggest challenges the Mazzarellas faced was the airport situation. Since three times the normal number of passengers flew into Cleveland, operators had to go to one lot to sign in and have their cre- dentials checked. When their client's flight was about to land, chauffeurs would be trans- ferred to a lot on the airport premises. Then when the plane landed, they released the ve- hicle to go curbside. "The challenge was communi- cating all the information to your staff and chauffeurs and making sure everyone was on the same page," Tony says. "TNCs had an effect on airport runs because Uber got the lot where we nor- mally park, and that's why our procedures were changed." Fortunately, protests did not disrupt fleet moves at the RNC. Mary Jo made sure to keep an BIG EVENT TIPS AND TRICKS Here is a cheat sheet for prepping and running transportation for any special event, comprised of advice from operators who handled this once-in- a-lifetime experience: • If you're a smaller operator, call potential affiliates in your area and get to know them. • Contact some of the hotels that will likely be hosting people during the event, contact concierges, and give them your phone number and email address. • Try not to prepare for an event based too much on someone else's experience, and don't lose your regular clients. • Be patient because reservations tend to come in last minute; don't become self-conscious about pricing. • It's never too early to start planning — begin as soon as you find out dates, times, and venues. • Have a back-up plan for your back-up plan. • Create a contract with clear terms for all clients, especially last minute ones. • Pre-pay car rental companies and hotels when making reservations. • Don't worry about what anyone else is doing; just concentrate and make sure to provide the best service possible. (L to R): Mary Jo and Tony Mazzarella, Steve Qua, John Petrus, and Larry Chrystal rocked the RNC.