As we all know, Los Angeles is the mecca of entertainment. When Tinseltown glistens with special events, and awards seasons, thousands of sedans, limousines and high-end specialty vehicles pour onto the streets of Los Angeles.
Here’s an inside look from one limousine operators.
While viewers tune in to watch awards seasons on TV, limo service dispatch centers are humming with intense activity.
Planning and coordination start two months ahead of time. At every limousine company lies the heart of the hive – the dispatch room often called “air traffic control,” –this is where the location and ETA of drivers and cars are coordinated. With clients making last minute requests and itinerary changes, it can be a daunting task running dispatch for clients and celebrities. But you can never say “no” to a client. Dispatch room supervisors often stay on shift until 3 am and can kick up their feet only after every last client is taken care of.
To the average person, the limo operations is an obscure concept. Many do not know that intricate communications and operational systems are running efficiently at high speed to meet the needs of clients. Multi-line call centers are the brain centers of proprietary dispatchers in the industry. Solid communication dispatch, emails, and texts are all necessary and fundamental lines of communication systems in helping us serve our clients optimally.
Limousines, sedans and vans are scattered from Beverly Hills to Hollywood picking up passengers all over town, then making their way to awards venues: Dolby Theatre in Hollywood for the Oscars and Staples Center for Grammys and Emmys. Even the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion sees some activity during the technical and Actors Guild Awards.
The bulk of customers procuring limos come from the Los Angeles entertainment industry – production and studio accounts. However, individual high- net worth individuals and long time accounts usually reserve like clockwork during the peak awards seasons.
Several dozen blocks surrounding these venues are cordoned off to commuter and local traffic
During awards season, major A list stars often need a cavalcade of cars not only for themselves but for their bodyguards and entourage. The minimum rental period is eight consecutive hours and prices range from $130 – $300 per hour, depending on the vehicle rented. Most popular vehicle rentals are the Lincoln Stretch Limos, Sedans and SUVS. However, the now popular MBZ Sprinter Specialty Vans gets requested every year.
On-site parking and vehicle coordination is conducted with almost military precision. Some awards shows have LAPD security checkpoints with bomb sniffing dogs and swat teams, while others rely on a lighter detail of a few squad cars and a few plain clothes undercover policeman.
Parking space is limited to offsite lots near the venues and spaces are purchased ahead of time. Each of the many limo companies working the event end up paying top dollar for large swaths of empty lot to fill with their vehicles. At some awards show, there can be around 400 to 700 cars parked at offsite staging lots and thousands more scattered on the side streets of LA. Each “show car” works with a number call tag system. A call tag number is given to the client and the driver. After the show, on-site red carpet reps coordinate with parking lot reps to call forward the drivers based on their call tag number. This is when the chaos starts and drivers and clients must be matched.
Some companies have on-site staff, who go around with a bottle of quick detailer a microfiber towels and detailer brush making sure that the inside and outside of the vehicle stays immaculate at all times. Others employ an on-site mechanic in case of any mechanical problems.
Chauffeurs often carry an emergency travel kit as well. Their “jump bag” contains everything from shoe polish and make- up kits to mouthwash and sewing kits. Sometimes even knowing the closest boutique liquor store that sells that special brand of European cigarettes can impress clients. Every extra mile the drivers go for their clients can earn them big cash tips, some as large as $900 with the smallest tips being $20
Many larger to mid size boutique limo companies in LA may have as many as 60 cars working any given awards show, but all will have to sub-contract out to many smaller companies and owner operators at some point in time. While most clients book ahead many wait until the last minute and request a car within days of the awards show season.
While the limo industry can be fiercely competitive, it is during the busy awards seasons that you will see a spirit of cooperation. Smaller companies often depend on “the big five” companies on awards nights and vice versa. Since almost every car in town is booked, they need to figure out how to help each other out and put egos and pettiness aside. Most operators know that the head honcho in charge of procuring transportation for the next year’s award season may be sitting in the back of their car. These contracts can mean millions of dollars worth of work a year.