Following on from A Week in the life of a chauffeur – Day 3. Find out how our resident chauffeur David gets on with some more airport transfers and a shopping trip. A chauffeurs work is never dull.
A little bit about airport transfers …
I jump out of bed, check my flight app to see what time my Client’s flight is due, and see it is delayed 2 hours with an ETA of 10am. The flight is coming in from the Far East and I know only too well that very often delays are made up in the last few hours of the flight. My unwritten rule, without fail, is to be too early rather than have the stress of potentially being late; it’s just not worth it.
Usually a Client will take between 20–40 minutes from the flight being at the gate to getting to Arrivals Hall, but I know of at least 2 of my Clients that have their ‘de-planing’ routine so meticulously planned that they can be in arrivals less than 10 minutes after the flight has landed.
Gatwick is one of my favourite airports. The Priority Parking, whilst expensive, is fantastic and means that I can park on the same level as the arrivals hall, rather than have to get escalators and elevators – this saves at least 12 minutes walking and queuing for lifts.
I wash my hands and get my sanitising products and give the car a good clean, making sure to refresh the supply of hand sanitising wipes and gel. My next job is not until 19:00H and so in theory I have almost a whole day free once I have dropped my Client back to their home. Even so, I put together a couple of meals for the day ahead, grab my coffee, fresh mask and leave home.
My arrival time at Gatwick is around 07:00H and so I employ another chauffeur trick and head to one of the many airport hotels at Gatwick which has minimum parking charges. Be warned though, some hotels have got wise to this, and so their parking charges are on a par with the airport prices.
Arriving at the hotel I head to the large atrium and organise a coffee (also, spending money at the hotel restaurant brings my parking charges down). I check my flight app again and, true to form, the pilot has made up 95 minutes. So the flight is now only 25 minutes late (not the original 2 hours that was shown at 4am).
Plan, Plan and then plan again
I know I keep talking about timings and the need to plan, but this really is a fundamental part of the job. I have been a chauffeur now for 15 years and so I am only too aware of the need to be prepared for anything and everything.
I work out that I need to be in the Priority Parking garage in 20 minutes and that gives me a few minutes to check through my emails and messages. There is nothing that needs my immediate attention, so I drive over to the parking and walk into the Arrivals Hall.
Adding a personal touch …
My Client today is a new Client both for me and iChauffeur, so I don’t know their preferred coffee and/or breakfast snack. This is important information to feed back to the office, so they can build up a client profile, and it also helps ensure that they match the right chauffeur for this Client.
I send an SMS to the Client advising them of my exact location in the terminal and to see whether they would like anything to eat or drink. I always make sure that I am well positioned in the Arrivals Hall – it never ceases to amaze me how many chauffeurs I see in the cafe’s or casually shopping without checking their phones – let alone standing with a nameboard.
I do not get a reply from the Client and so I remain standing with my digital name board clearly visible (never leaning against a wall or standing with my hands in my pockets). It is little things like this that set some chauffeurs apart.
I still get a little nervous meeting new Clients. What will they be like, what kind of mood will they be in, a thousand questions go through my head as I stand ramrod straight. I am on super high alert now, and try to make eye contact with passengers as they arrive. My Client sees me immediately and waves from the frosted glass doors in the terminal.
I introduce myself and take his luggage, and ask whether he needs to buy anything from the M&S, (often Clients want to get a few basic groceries before they head home). This initial conversation is a great way to get a good idea of the Client’s priorities, whether they are in a rush, or they have time for me to organise coffee for them.
Your wish is my command
Today I ascertain that the Client is relaxed and he wants to get some last minute gifts for his parents. He is staying with them for a few days’ holiday; a break from his busy life in Singapore.
My Client’s parents live in Kingston and so I suggest rather than getting gifts at the airport, I could take him to the large shopping centre in Kingston, where there is a huge John Lewis store.
“Great idea”, my Client exclaims and so I just let him know I will call the office to advise them of the change of schedule so they can amend the booking details.
As we take the motorway into London we discuss what gifts to purchase for his parents. My Client also says he needs to get a haircut and could do with a wet shave. I offer to organise this for him and whilst he is at the barber I can shop for the gifts: a pair of Mont Blanc cuff links for dad and a Hermes scarf for mum (lucky parents).
Talking of cuff links reminds as to why I always have a spare set of cufflinks in my car. A colleague of mine tells the story of his Client, the groom on his wedding day. In the car en route to his own wedding and he lost a cuff link. My colleague ended up giving his Client his own cuff-links and ever since I heard this story I always have a spare set of cufflinks in my glove box.
Back to Kingston and shopping completed I head to the barber shop located just on the outskirts of the town, collect my Client and take him to his parent’s home.
Working up a sweat
It’s now 1.45pm, and although I have no work until 7pm this evening, I am reluctant to head home in case any work comes in. I call the office to advise them my current location and that I am free until 18:00. There is no work and I quite like the idea of a quiet afternoon at home and maybe a run around the local park.
I get home at 14:30, hang up my suit, don my running kit and spend the next hour puffing my way around the Surrey Hills. It is a beautiful part of the world but, as the name would suggest, it is really hilly so by the time I get home I am pretty exhausted.
I shower and once again check my flight app – my job for this evening is on time, meaning that I need to leave the house at around 16.30. I would not usually allow so long to get to Gatwick from my home, however there have been some protests recently from ancillary airport workers demanding better working conditions. I have just seen this on our iChauffeur WhatsApp group that there is a unplanned protest at Gatwick North which will affect traffic to and from the terminal.
The WhatsApp group chat is absolutely brilliant – it gives us all a way to communicate to each other about any traffic issues and roadworks across the UK, very often prior to any reports on the radio or TV.
My routine now is really a repeat of this morning – clean and sanitise the car and then get to the airport hotel, organise a coffee (this time decaffeinated) and check my flight app.
The airport pick up goes smoothly and I drop my Client, another regular, at his Chelsea mews house at 21:00.
By the time I get home it is just before 10pm, and I start planning for the following day. Most people watch the news at this time, but I listen to the radio throughout the day and so I probably know what is going on in the world as well and any newsreader! I take my temperature and email it to the office (this is part of our new iChauffeur COVID protocols, we have to take daily temperature checks and email the office the night with our results before any we go to work the next day).
I give the car a final clean for the day, and then plan for the next day. Tomorrow I am taking a little boy and his mum to a famous Harley Street hospital, the little boy has been quite ill, although he is now definitely on the road to recovery he still needs to shield which means I have to be super cautious myself. As a chauffeur I am part of the essential workforce and have been working throughout the pandemic. Given my job is around people and transport I am extra cautious when I am out to ensure that I do not get infected and do not run the risk of infecting anyone else.
I plan my route for tomorrow and set my alarm a little earlier as I want to spend an extra 30 minutes sanitising the car to make sure it is safe for my client and her son in the morning.