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What’s It Really Like in the Los Angeles Limo Industry?

An Interview with Adir Katzin, Owner of A&E Worldwide Limo.

Q: How did you get started in this business?

A: This is a second generation family business. I worked in the business for 8 years learning the ropes, pursued a career in emergency medicine and eventually fell back into the luxury chauffeured transportation service, which was my original passion.

 

Q:  What do you enjoy about it?

A: I enjoy working with and speaking to my clients and the satisfaction of seeing a job well done.  I love 99.9% of all my clients. You have to have the “heart of a servant” and love customer service in order to do this work day in and day out. I care deeply about their satisfaction and safety and there’s a certain gratification in seeing a happy customer. Of course I do enjoy most everything else that comes with the daily grind…the nonstop challenge of dealing with logistics, traffic, airport delays and flight changes. It’s all a nonstop 24/7 challenge that constantly keeps me on my toes so there’s never a dull moment.  I really enjoy the hustle of it.  I also enjoy flipping the vehicles every few seasons and choosing new models based upon vehicle performance and client demand. There’s really a chance to “geek out” on the newest tech trends and development.  But, at the end of the day every choice I make is geared towards client satisfaction.

 

Q: How do you compare to your competitors in your area?

A: At the end of the day, it comes down to consistent performance. I can proudly say that we have one of the highest client retention rates in the industry.  That boils down to margin of error. Our margin of error on trip to trip is VERY small, and it’s due in large part to the team of people I surround myself with highly qualified staff and the equipment and technology we use. Needles to say most people also appreciate a “customer first” attitude, clean,  well-maintained vehicles, superior back-end office support and professional and punctual drivers who have great people skills.

 

Q. What makes your limo service different?

A: We are considered a “personal boutique service.” What this means is that we strive to treat each and every client as if they’re our only one.  That’s how it started for us and that’s the way we’ve continued to behave. The problem with some larger brand names in this industry is that they’ve forgotten about their customers. I try and make sure that EVERY detail on every ride is flawless. Even with perfect execution, with occasional goof ups do occur. What makes us different is that we care. If there’s ever an incident or complaint, I do everything in my power to make it right.

 

Q:  Do you only serve LA/Sherman Oaks area?

A: We also provide the same level of service in over 350 cities worldwide. It’s taken us 38 years to develop our worldwide affiliate network, but it’s a well oiled machine that we’re very proud of. We consider our service a one stop shop for all your transportation needs

 

Q. You must be some interesting characters and cool people. Can you share a few?

A: The clients that are most memorable to me are the movers and shakers; individual giants that drive the modern industry. Also it’s really neat to meet people whose work I have always had a personal interest in.  From the CEO of Twitter to the CEO of Discovery Communications, I have had the chance to meet and work with some of the most influential people in the western world. We also do alot of small family accounts and major corporate travel for companies such as Chevron and Amgen.  I am also a huge horror film buff and once had the chance to drive the Director of  the horror movie “Hostel.” That was a huge nerdy moment for me and I had to try my hardest not to geek out when meeting him

 

Q: What keeps you going everyday?

A: Limo.

I can liken it to the excitement of show business.  The action stress and spotlight are part of the excitement.  When we’ve completed group transportation for a large event or award show for example and all the working pieces have come together perfectly there’s a certain satisfaction to it.  That’s ultimately what keeps me going. I would also like to build this business into an asset that I can eventually pass on to my kids and see where they take it.

 

Q: What’s new and coming in your industry?

A: The discontinuation of the former industry standard. The Executive Lincoln Town Car has a left a vacuum in vehicle choice.  Right now we’re excited about new changes and have our eyes on the New 2016 Lincoln Continental, as well as the 2016 Cadillac CT6 with extended wheel base.  We are always in attendance at the trade shows and will be keeping our eyes peeled.  While we are certainly acutely aware of the pull and attraction of On Demand Apps for transportation.  We are holding out to make sure that we make the wisest investment in reservation and booking apps, so that we can find one that both integrates seamlessly into our back-end admin system and that also works for our clients

 

Q: What’s your vehicle selection like?

A: We have  recently made some significant investments in three new Cadillac Escalade platinum edition SUVs…a very nice option for small groups with luggage  We are also starting to carve out a niche in the Mercedes Benz Sprinter Market and have purchased 3 new vans that can accommodate anywhere from 11 to 18 passengers. Each model of Sprinter really has it’s own personality and can really be tricked out. We of course stock the standard Lincoln, Cadillac and Mercedes sedans as well as high end mini coaches for large group work.

 

Q: How do you compete with the car-sharing companies like Uber?

A: One word…Service.

Most Uber users are not using them because they want to. It’s a question of price and convenience. But, ultimately I always know who is driving my car and my clients. And I am able to trust them with my own family.  Without spending too much time mulling over the whole Uber debate, I can tell you that I invest a lot of my money and time in personnel, and that there is a distinct difference between a driver and a chauffeur.  We deliver a flawless service to our clients, that’s our promise. Ultimately, Uber has upped the ante with response time and new Whiz bang technology. While we certainly cannot and will not compete with them on pricing, we have crunched our lead times to 1 hour, almost anywhere in LA and are currently looking into a streamlined consumer end app that does everything Uber does, but even better.

Other things to consider is that Uber cannot take advance reservations of weeks or days beforehand where this is a standard option for A&E Worldwide Limo clients. Uber also does not have a phone number and we always have our phone lines and emails open to our clients. This is where caliber service starts.

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An Inside Look Into the Grammys with A&E Worldwide Limo

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.

 

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