When you’re jetting off on an overseas business trip the last thing you need is the headache of organising airport transfers – especially once you arrive at the end of your flight.
Thankfully, a handful of airlines offer a chauffeured car before and after your business class or first class flight to make the journey more stress-free.
At least eight airlines flying to Australia currently include a chauffeur service for premium passengers - here's how we rank them.
With a wide network from Dubai and complimentary transfers available at the majority of those destinations for business and first class passengers, Emirates' chauffeur drive easily tops the list for most accessible service.
Point-based reward tickets are also eligible if the flight has been booked using Emirates' own Skywards Miles and Qantas Points, although not those of other partner airlines.
However, this service will be cut back from Skywards classic reward tickets from 1 March 2019.
Even passengers on the direct flights between Australia and Asia, such as Melbourne to Singapore, can expect a chauffeur pick-up when booked on the EK flight number (but not the QF codeshare).
The only exclusions are itineraries with purely short flights outside of Dubai such as Australia to New Zealand and Hong Kong to Bangkok. Note that in Hong Kong, only first class passengers are eligible for chauffeur drive.
In Dubai, travellers can be whisked away in a BMW 520i Touring, with a Mercedes-Benz V class for group bookings. Everywhere else, the service is contracted to other providers with their own selection of vehicles.
In Australia, a limit of two passengers and two pieces of checked luggage per car applies – but each eligible passenger is entitled to one car on their own, so you could order multiple cars for a group if necessary.
There was much fanfare when Qantas launched its own chauffeur drive service for business and first class in 2013 as part of the Qantas/Emirates alliance, encompassing many long-distance routes.
Sadly, this has been pared back and is now open only to passengers travelling between Australia and London on the following flights (booked through either Qantas or Emirates):
- Sydney-London (via Singapore): QF1 and QF2
- Singapore-London: QF1 and QF2
- Melbourne-London (via Perth): QF9 and QF10
- Perth-London: QF9 and QF10
Those starting from Sydney or Melbourne (or heading back from London) have to be booked all the way to London on one sector to be eligible – that means no stopovers in Singapore or Perth.
Naturally, there’s no chauffeur service if you’re darting solely between Sydney and Singapore or Melbourne and Perth (on QF1/QF2 and QF9/QF10, respectively).
Qantas will offer you a chauffeured car before your domestic or trans-Tasman flight if you are connecting onto one of the eligible international services to London.
Apart from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, this is available from Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.
That short leg doesn’t have to be in business class, however it does need to be booked on the same ticket as your eligible international flight to/from London.
Qantas' terms and conditions state that the transit time between those two flights has to be between 6-24 hours, so if there are only three hours between flights you won't qualify for a chauffeur drive booking beforehand.
However, a Qantas spokesperson confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that passengers with a domestic-to-international connection of 6-24 hours will be eligible for chauffeur drive at their home port and at the transit point, which would come in handy for overnight transfers to a hotel and back.
A complimentary limousine service is offered to business class travellers on Virgin Australia flights bound for Los Angeles, or with Etihad to Abu Dhabi when booked through the VA codeshare and travelling in first or business class.
However, in both cases those must be paid tickets – Velocity reward bookings are excluded – and only on the more expensive business class fares.
On Virgin's Los Angeles flights, Business Saver fares (ticketed as D and I fare types) are ineligible for that limo ride; Virgin's codeshare flights with Etihad to Abu Dhabi see the chauffeur service covering most Business Saver fares but for the least-expensive I-class Business Saver bookings.
This service is also available from domestic capital cities when connecting to or from the eligible international long-haul flight when booked on the same ticket.
While there is a mileage limit of 60km in Australia and 50 miles in the USA, if two or more eligible guests travel together in the same vehicle in Australia or the United States, the complimentary distance can be extended at the discretion of the limousine service operator.
Heading from Sydney or Melbourne with Air China? A chauffeured transfer for business and first class passengers (but not reward bookings) is included for Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongquin, Nanjing and Hangzhou.
If you're connecting between international and domestic Air China flights in Shanghai, have a transit time above five hours and need to transfer between Pudong and Hongqiao airports, you can request a chauffeur car to take you between those two airports.
PhoenixMiles Platinum members in first or business class will qualify for the service even if they're on a codeshare flight, while PhoenixMiles Gold members and above can request a transfer on most Air China regional and domestic flights as well when travelling in business class.
A limousine airport transfer service is offered to business class guests on any fare except for reward bookings and the lowest priced R fare type. Hainan Airlines operates from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns and Auckland.
Eligible passengers can request a transfer at both ends of their journey in theory, however, there is no coverage in Australia or NZ. A chauffeured car can be organised in Xi'An, Shenzhen, Changsha and Haikou, or further afield when connecting on Hainan-operated domestic routes to cities such as Shanghai, Chongqing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Hangzhou. The service is also offered at their destinations within the USA and Europe.
Bookings can be made from 30 days up to 24 hours before the flight, by emailing [email protected].
A relatively new entrant on this list, China Eastern began offering a limousine service at the start of 2018. It covers Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, as well as China Eastern's primary China destinations of Shanghai and Beijing.
Passengers must hold a paid business or first class ticket issued by China Eastern on flights from Australia to China - it specifically excludes other codeshares including through Qantas, while reward tickets are ineligible.
There are a number of caveats to be aware of – the booking is valid only for one car journey per sector, it needs to be booked seven days in advance and there is a $150 fee for changes once booked.
The guest list for British Airways’ complimentary limousine transfer is very tight - you must hold a confirmed, return first class ticket from Sydney to London (via Singapore) on BA15 and BA16. Only paid fares will have access - reward tickets are exempt.
If you tick all those boxes, then you’ll enjoy a complimentary limousine transfer in a Jaguar to and from Sydney Airport, although transfers to and from London Heathrow airport are not included.
Etihad's network-wide complimentary transfers were scrapped in July 2017, with a slimmed-down offering now available only in Etihad's home port of Abu Dhabi for first class and business class, although the least-expensive Business Saver fares are excluded, as are reward tickets.
If you are having a stopover in the United Arab Emirates, then you’ll be able to use Etihad’s chauffeur service to go anywhere within the UAE.
The only exception to the rules above are well-heeled high flyers in Etihad's Airbus A380 Residence, who will – as one would expect – continue to enjoy a complimentary ride at both ends of their journey.
How to securing your chauffeur drive booking
If you fulfil the criteria for an airline’s chauffeur service, head to its website for instructions on how to book the transfer - in some cases there will be a button on the Manage Booking page, in other cases you may need to send your details to an email address or through a web form.
Most services need to be booked at least 48 hours in advance, especially when departing Australia. If you are trying to upgrade to business class on Qantas or Emirates and it is only confirmed with less than 48 hours to go, you may be unable to book a chauffeur transfer prior to that leg.
That said, if you’re arriving in Dubai and haven't yet arranged your chauffeur booking you can still head to Emirates' service desk and request one if you’re eligible.