When you’ve shelled out for a super-premium experience on your next flight, what could be better than cutting out the headache of transit from your home to the airport? Forget expensive taxis, parking problems and congested trains. These are the airlines that will get you to your flight in the utmost comfort – with a chauffeur-driven car.
It should come as no surprise that the Middle Eastern airline that has built its brand on luxury is all about the chauffeur drive. Unlike many other airlines, Emirates’ chauffeur service is not just available in its home city of Dubai but pretty much everywhere in the world. It offers its chauffeur service to first and business class passengers, as long as they have paid for their ticket outright and not using awards or upgrade perks.
There are some reservations with Emirates’ chauffeur service. The flight has to be operated by Emirates and marketed as such, so codeshare flights won’t get this perk. There is also a maximum distance policy, which comes in at around 50 miles or so from the airport, so don’t expect to be driven halfway across the country.
Emirates offers global chauffeur services within around 50 – 70 miles of the airport. Photo: Emirates
If you live outside the chauffeur drive radius, you can still request the service for a fee. Bookings should be made at least 12 hours in advance and will usually be conducted in a BMW 5 Series for business class or a Mercedes-Benz S450 for first.
Keeping up with the Joneses next door, Etihad also offers chauffeur service, but only at its Abu Dhabi home. On the upside, this does mean you can get a chauffeur both when arriving and departing Abu Dhabi if you’re traveling in business or first. Additionally, the chauffeur will take you anywhere in the UAE, so if your final destination is not Abu Dhabi, this is a great way to get from the airport to your stop.
Etihad also offers a chauffeur transfer. Photo: Etihad
Bookings can be made online up to 12 hours before departure or arrival, or you can book with your travel agent or Etihad’s contact center. Etihad does not specify a car type, but displays the BMW 5 Series on its booking site.
German flag carrier Lufthansa has a slightly more limited approach to chauffeur service. It does drive passengers in luxury to their airplane, but only to and from the airport terminal. The service is complimentary for first class passengers, but only at certain airports. At the time of writing, this includes Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Geneva and Vienna.
Lufthansa’s chauffeur will only take you from the terminal to the airplane. Photo: Lufthansa
Turkish Airlines offers chauffeur service at select airports, but not in its home country! At present, its ‘Exclusive Drive’ service is available in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, New York, San Francisco, Toronto and Washington DC, although the airline notes that more cities are being added regularly.
Distance is limited to 35 miles, but all business class passengers are eligible for the service. Unlike other airlines, economy class passengers can also use the service, although they have to pay for it.
Turkish Airlines has a fairly comprehensive chauffeur network, but not in Turkey. Photo: Turkish Airlines
Virgin offers all Upper Class passengers a chauffeur service, and has a pretty extensive network of them too. Its chauffer-driven cars are available at all of the destinations the airline serves, excluding Havana and Lagos. All Upper Class passengers are eligible, provided they are not flying on reward tickets and the distance covered is 75 miles.
Like Turkish, Virgin offers its chauffer drive service to all passengers, including economy, as long as they’re happy to pay for the privilege. Alternatively, economy passengers can use 17,500 miles to fund their chauffeur service.
Passengers on certain Air China services can book a complimentary chauffeur transfer on arrival in China, or to get to the airport. The cities covered at present are Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Tianjin and Xi’an.
Passengers must be traveling in business or first class, not on a reward ticket, and intracity transfers are only offered to those traveling to or from Europe, America, Africa and Oceania. For those traveling to or from Asia, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, only PhoenixMiles Silver and above status will get you the free transfer. For domestic flights, PhoenixMiles Gold and above is required.
Air Canada has invested in electric Porsche vehicles for airport transfers. Photo: Air Canada
Air Canada reopened its Signature Suite in Toronto earlier this year, and to complement this, the airline introduced a new chauffeur service. Notably, its service utilizes electric or hybrid electric Porsche vehicles, offering a nice upgrade over its previous BMW transfers.
But don’t expect to be picked up from home in the electric Porsche because, like Lufthansa, Air Canada only uses the service to transfer premium passengers between terminals at the airport. It’s not available to all premium passengers either – the service will be offered to select guests on a ‘surprise and delight’ basis.
Several other airlines offer terminal-to-terminal transfers, including United, Delta, and American; although they are mostly reserved for top-tier passengers, not every single business class flyer.
Have you ever had a chauffer transfer? Let us know in the comments.