Review: Qantas chauffeur drive service

Review: Qantas chauffeur drive service

NOTE: Qantas now provides Chauffeur Drive only when travelling between Australia and Dubai or Europe.

The review below was published when the service was also offered on flights to the USA.


A recent trip with Qantas from Sydney to the USA afforded me the opportunity to sample the airline’s free chauffeur service, introduced earlier this year and now available on most long-range international flights for business class and first class travellers.

You can book a driver and choose your pre-flight pickup time online, along with choosing your seat and pre-ordering your meal.

Living on lower Sydney’s north shore puts me well within the service’s qualifying ‘40 driven kilometre’ radius of Sydney International Airport – an arc which roughly stretches to Hornsby, Blacktown and Liverpool. (Click here for the ‘complimentary mileages’ applicable to all cities plus the per-km surcharge if you’re outside that zone.)

The day before you fly, an operator from Brunel Chauffeured Limousines – which holds the chauffeur contract for both Qantas and Emirates – calls to confirm your pickup time and address.

This is also your opportunity to make any special requests, such as having the driver text or call your mobile phone once they arrive.

Early is good

The first leg of my trip was Sydney to New York (via LAX) on QF107 – with a 10am departure, I booked the driver for 6.45am in order to skirt the peak-hour traffic and give me a full three hours in Qantas’ world-class First lounge (along with maximising my chances of snaring a booking at the lounge's Payot spa).

My driver Neil turned up five minutes early, as I’ve often found to be the case with professional drivers. My ride that morning was a black Chevrolet Caprice, which according to Neil is one of only a few hundred seen locally before being rebadged as the Holden Caprice.

Neil had good knowledge of the local area and nimbly ducked around some unexpected traffic to get me to Sydney’s T1 terminal a little after 7am.

One of the small yet undeniable pleasures of using a service like this, compared to a taxi or most other hire cars, is that there’s no final fussing about with credit cards and receipts, punching in a PIN or signing a chit when you pull up at the airport. You arrive, you’re out the door, your luggage is on the pavement and you’re ready to roll.

Email on the go

One week later, I returned to Sydney on QF12, to be met by driver Stuart in the arrivals hall and walked to his black Audi A8L waiting in the nearby hire care pickup zone.

As is my habit, once we were underway I opened my laptop and switched my smartphone into ‘hotspot’ mode to do a quick send-and-receive of overnight emails.

Stuart noticed this and asked if I’d like to use his wi-fi system. As it turns out, all cars in the Brunel fleet (which means all Qantas and Emirates chauffeur drive vehicles) are equipped with a portable 3G hotspot.

It’s a top convenience, especially for turning some of that downtime to or from the airport into productive time.

Also unexpected but very considerate: as we approached North Sydney, Stuart asked if I wanted him to make a detour to pick up any milk or essential groceries on the way home. Considering I’d been away for a week, I appreciated this very pro-active piece of customer service.

The Qantas Chauffeur Service is available to first class and business class passengers on selected international flights including Dubai, London, Los Angeles and Dallas Forth Worth.

David Flynn travelled to the USA as a guest of Qantas.

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David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.
 

24 comments

  • edy4eva

    edy4eva

    3 Oct, 2013 11:13 am

    I've used the service twice in CBR in the past 8 weeks, both arriving from DXB via SYD. The first time the driver was waiting for me in the arrivals hall with a hand written sign. The second time, another guy (not the driver this time who was waiting in the car) was holding an iPad with the QF logo and my name displayed, that's despite my flight arriving almost an hour late.

    In both cases we waited for the luggage and took it to a 7-series BMW which was waiting on the ground floor inside the multi storey carpark, just metres away from the entrance (in the car rentals area). They loaded the bags into the trunk and took me home swiftly.

    I suppose the only improvement the service needs is a confirmation email, because once you sign up, the only indication that the booking is confirmed is on the Manage Your Booking where it shows as 'Booked' under each segment.

    I've also used the service ex-DXB, but it's the usual EK F service (E-class station wagons) with the drivers arriving a full 20 minute early. On the second time they called my hotel room at 6:40AM a full 40 minute ahead of the agreed pick up time, despite the reception insisting that I was on DND until 7AM). The nice thing about EK though is that they send an SMS when the pick up is ready with the driver's mobile number.

    No member give thanks

  • AusFlyer

    AusFlyer

    3 Oct, 2013 11:20 am

    I've used the EK F service and it was great. The drivers on both departure and arrival were there waiting at the prescribed time and the service was outstanding. There's nothing better when arriving off a long flight (or any flight really!) to have someone waiting to whisk you to your hotel or home!

    No member give thanks

  • highflyer

    highflyer

    3 Oct, 2013 11:23 am

    I've utilized this service quite a few times, which is quite convenient and normally hassle free.  The only time i've had trouble was in London, when i didn't receive a confirmation call, and the driver apparently went to the wrong hotel..or couldn't find the Hotel i was staying at.  My 2.5 hr pickup ended up being 2 hrs, which then stressed me out a bit.  The inconvenience of it was that i had no numbers i was able to Call.  I was on a QF codeshare flight, but the metal was EK.  I ended up calling both airlines, and got the runaround, and eventually got through to the driver, who had my number wrong.  It would be useful if QF or EK provided a number to call in these instances to put you onto the car service company who is operating the service.

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  • Al Glidden

    AlG

    3 Oct, 2013 11:37 am

    "It would be useful if QF or EK provided a number to call in these instances to put you onto the car service company who is operating the service."

    That's a very good idea, highflyer!

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  • Al Glidden

    AlG

    3 Oct, 2013 11:37 am

    Used this a few months ago for Melbourne-London, a great 'bonus' on top of the normal Qantas business class fare, pick-up and drop-off at both Melbourne and London ends of the trip. Very handy for London! I just wish Qantas had this for Singapore, even the option to book it for a reduced rate or using a small amount of points would be good.

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  • AusFlyer

    AusFlyer

    3 Oct, 2013 01:33 pm

    ... and Hong Kong while we're at it.

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  • Susan McLean

    thecypercop

    4 Oct, 2013 11:47 am

    If you fly EK to Singapore you get it.....not good enought QF. I had to change a flight at the last minute and the EK time was better. Nicely surprised to find I got transfers as well...

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  • iamwill

    iamwill

    3 Oct, 2013 11:53 am

    Really, a Chevrelot Caprice that was rebadged as a Holden Caprice. I dont think so. Maybe ii is the tosser driver who doesnt want to be seen in a Holden Caprice and has rebadged it as a Chevrelot. No such thing as a Chevrelot Caprice in Australia. They are all Holdens. Same as all the Chevrelot SS (Commodores) on the road. Just a plane jane Holden SS. Why is a Chevrelot badge so sort after in Australia when in the US they are just common as muck.

    No member give thanks

  • Phil Young

    Phil Young

    3 Oct, 2013 12:56 pm

    I've used the Qantas car service in both London and Sydney last month.  The London driver arrived 15 mins early, both emailing and calling me when he arrived, not that he wanted to hurry me.  His car was a silver Mercedes E220.

    However, at Sydney we were met by the driver in the Arrivals area, and I asked if he could drop my travel companion off at Central railway station, which was almost on his direct route.  He explained that it would cost an extra $35.  We indignantly declined.  I pointed out that we were both entitled to book seperate cars for our journeys that would each be about 10kms, and that Qantas provides a 40km distance allowance.  He reluctantly agreed to drop my companion at another suitable station.

    No member give thanks

  • robbiec

    robbiec

    3 Oct, 2013 01:07 pm

    I'd highly reccomend Uber if you're not taking business class or are flying domestic and have access to this Service. You're able to book via smartphone and track where they are, payment is automatic. I've taken it a few times and it is amazing!

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  • AusFlyer

    AusFlyer

    3 Oct, 2013 03:11 pm

    Nice tip.. I might have to try Uber out!

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  • KG

    KG

    3 Oct, 2013 02:14 pm

    Question on my mind is wether you were able to secure a spa treatment coming 3 hours early????

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  • David Flynn

    David

    3 Oct, 2013 02:44 pm

    Yes, the spa opens at 8am and they were able to fit me in! :)

    No member give thanks

  • russell

    russell

    3 Oct, 2013 02:23 pm

    I had Stuart pick me up for my QF F flight a few weeks ago in his Audi A8 frm the Hilton. Beautiful car and great service. He was the ultimate professional. 

    No member give thanks

  • NEquine

    NEquine

    3 Oct, 2013 04:55 pm

    Its a great service when it works!  We missed a connecting flight due to the aircraft arriving late so were re-routed and arrived 16 hours after our original scheduled time.  While the flights were changed nobody re-scheduled the chauffeur car (despite the system showing we had one booked) which was annoying as we expected it to be waiting for us at AKL. 

    No member give thanks

  • aero-seat

    aero-seat

    3 Oct, 2013 08:20 pm

    I have only used complimentary chaffeur drive a few times, and it is very good. I didn't know that a complimentary wi-fi system was offered, that would make my journey wonderful. Last time I used this service, Brunel also contracts with Virgin Australia and Etihad.

    No member give thanks

  • MissBasset

    MissBasset

    4 Oct, 2013 11:22 am

    I wonder if this service is available for upgrades to Business of First on GF107/108 to JFK. Timing to organise would seem OK for return flight at least. Maybe not for outward flight. Anyone had any experience re this?

    No member give thanks

  • Susan McLean

    thecypercop

    4 Oct, 2013 11:46 am

    I have used this service several times, and interestinly if you fly EK to Singapore you get it but not on a QF flight. Qanta need to match EK on that!! Flight to Eurpope in Aug, pick up on time but went the longest, busiest route from home to airport no idea why and return even though we specified 4 suitcases, a sedan with minimul boot space so that luggae had to be in car. The service London to Heathrow was excellent as was Dubai hotel to aiport.

    No member give thanks

  • Dale Fowler

    dalefowler

    5 Oct, 2013 01:14 pm

    My recent personal experience with Qantas chaffeur drive tells me this is not a fully integrated service yet. After booking the pick up approximatley 6 weeks in advance, we needed to change our pick up address. This cannot be done at the website. When you call Qantas they advise that "this has nothing to do with us" routine (similar to when you have problems with a Jetstar flight). They tell you to wait till 48 hours before the flight when you will be contacted. They could not even tell me who the company was in the USA or their phine number. The Australian end did call me before the flight. We needed a larger vehicle due to there being 4 people and extra luggage. That invoked a $55 surcharge. I also advised of the address change. They also took 24 hours to get back to me so I only confirmed the transfer 12 hours before the flight. On the day of the flight I recieved a call at the time of pick up and they were at my old address - approximately 15km away! Luckily it was early Saturday morning so he arrived 20 minutes later. On the USA end the supervisor and driver were shocked by the luggage we had and advised that we should have called them! Firstly Qantas advised us that they would call us and secondly we could not get contact details from Qantas. Anyway in both cases the drivers were great and the cars were suitable. I went on to book additonal transfers with the US company and I have their card now for future reference.

    I note that when I spoke to the Qantas club desk about the issues they just admitted it was a bew service and its "not quite right yet".

    No member give thanks

  • semaphorism

    semaphorism

    5 Oct, 2013 02:56 pm

    Thanks for the helpful review. I'll be using this service in just over month after my return flight home, since it's annoyingly not (yet?) available in New York after arriving on QF107, where it would actually be useful to me.

    One thing I've been wondering about is whether it's appropriate/necessary to tip the driver if they're as good and professional as described here. Sure, there's no 'final fussing' with payment, but should one acknowledge the personal attention or is this part and parcel of the service?  A trip would probably be expected if in the US, but what about here in Oz?

    No member give thanks

  • MissBasset

    MissBasset

    5 Oct, 2013 03:34 pm

    Tipping is pretty much a no-no in airline related services, particularly in Australia, but the chaffeur service is straying from an airline service a little. Qantas would no doubt tell you it is contracted out and gratuities were not their concern.  The US being what it is, I would be certain that the chaffeur would definately expect to be tipped. Cab fare from JFK to Manhattan would be US$45-55 for example, so you would need to tip around 20% of that, with a dollar or 2 extra per large bag.

    Qantas should provide some guidance on this topic however much thay might not want to, as no customer wants to be embarrassed or unclear of what is expected of them. Similarly, the car companies should be made aware of what to expect.

    No member give thanks

  • flatout

    flatout

    10 Nov, 2013 12:56 pm

    Just wondering about chauffer drive London to LHR. Would a tip be expected?

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  • MissBasset

    MissBasset

    10 Nov, 2013 01:24 pm

    Absolutely!  Certainly worth it considering the other unappealling options.

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  • Antonylp

    Antonylp

    6 Jan, 2014 10:55 pm

    I have used the service in Melbourne a few times and only have negative experiences regarding the return leg.. From Tulla to home.  The typical mafia driver, have to walk to the parking lot opposite QF domestic, then put up with the driver texting all the way home.   Comment from QF P1 - you would need to take theat up with the service directly.   

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26 May, 2019 03:33 pm

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