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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