Our 7 point guide to driving like a professional chauffeur.
Want to improve your driving skills? Would you like to stay cool, calm and collected like a professional chauffeur when you drive? Unflustered, unhurried and always on time?
Would you like to say goodbye to road rage and learn how to keep your passengers happy?
Plan the route
Before heading off to somewhere unfamiliar, you need to research your route. Develop a clear sense of where you are going before you set off. This includes car parking spots. And even the entrance to the pickup and drop-off locations. Many hotels, restaurants and airports will offer driving directions on their website. Google Maps’ Street View is great for research. Even noting the colour of the client’s front door can be useful. Devise a backup route in case of the unexpected. In a Telegraph survey the most cited cause of risky driving is getting lost. The survey shows that distracted drivers are by no means safe drivers
Give yourself time
Our chauffeurs are never late. They allow plenty of time before their pickups. Adding some extra margin to the pickup time you help avoid getting stressed. By setting off earlier, you allow for stuff to happen such as heavy traffic or unforeseen road closures. Stuff happens. Leave early.
While you can’t control the way other motorists drive, you can control how you react to them. You can look ahead and anticipate potential dangers. Does that driver know his indicator is flashing? Are the cars in front too close to one another? Expect the unexpected and plan for it. Keep your distance. The more space you keep around you, the less chance you will have of a collision. Keep a 2-second cushion between you and the car in front of you. Make that 4 seconds in bad weather. Observe, anticipate and plan. So, what can I see? What could it mean for me? What do I need to do to stay safe? There are many visual clues we can take from the environment to help us. Oberving road traffic signs and markings are the most obvious. The more signs and road markings the greater the chance of danger. While skid marks on the road show potential areas for caution. Similarly the line of trees, hedges, buildings, street lights and telegraph poles can all help show the road ahead. But remember telegraph poles sometimes run through fields, so don’t follow them!
Erratic driving is as bad for the environment as it is for the passengers. Erratic driving will use more fuel and also increase wear and tear to the vehicle. Passengers don’t have a steering wheel to hold on to and perceive g-forces more than the driver. So how do you drive smoothly? Anticipating the road ahead will help your driving to become smoother. If there is a queue ahead you could start easing off the accelerator earlier, reducing both the amount of braking and fuel required. And making the deceleration smoother.
We all make mistakes. So don’t penalise other road users for their errors. So what can safe, experienced drivers do to help account for the mistakes of others? Take a deep breath and carry on. While you can’t control the way other motorists drive, you can control how you react to them. It is unacceptable to get angry behind the wheel. Learn to let things go. It might be tempting to retaliate, but it would be unprofessional for a chauffeur to do so. Practicing mindfulness, being in the present moment, might help you drive safer. If you are early you could even do a simple meditation before you set off. Just concentrating on your breathing for a couple of minutes. This will help you relax your mind and help with your composure before you start driving.
Know your vehicle
Make sure you have enough fuel. Except for longer trips it is unacceptable to stop for fuel with the passenger onboard. Know how to control the climate of the vehicle. How to adjust seats and pull down armrests. Know how to operate the in car entertainment system. The more proficient you are will make your passengers more comfortable. It also helps make you safer too. As will keeping the vehicle well maintained and serviced. Make sure all fluid levels are checked, tyre pressure and tread depth, as well as lights and indicators are correct and functioning.
Observe the Highway Code
Respect the rules of the road. Safe drivers do not speed. They don’t use their phones whilst driving also. Safe drivers observe the Highway Code. The most experienced chauffeurs do not bend the rules. Being a responsible road user means following the rules. They make everyone safer.
Beloved by our clients, as well as a firm favourite with the chauffeurs, the S-Class is the chauffeur car to beat. For years the S-Class has set the standard in safety. The latest recently launched seventh- generation brings more of the same. Its consistent performance year on year has set the S-Class apart from strong competition from BMW and Audi.
For those with £160,000 budget, the new 2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class luxury limo comes with lashings of technology, styling and safety, but its price tag then starts to move closer to the Bentley Mulsanne’s price which starts at £241,000.
The V-Class doesn’t have any peers when you are travelling with more than 4 passengers. Offering luxurious travel for up to 7 passengers, and their luggage – A stylish minivan/MPV for group travel. The V-Class is a versatile and capable vehicle and has always been the chauffeur’s first choice in people carriers, even with the previous Vito and Viano models.
Mercedes pure-electric EQV luxury MPV is on sale in the UK now, with prices starting from £70,665 and is the obvious eco-friendly choice. Mercedes has mounted the EQV’s battery pack under the vehicle’s floor – which means there’s no real difference to the amount of interior space over the standard V-Class.
Always in the running for the best chauffeur car award. Handcrafted in Goodwood where a space-age aluminium chassis is fused with the finest leather and woodwork. The Phantom is an exquisite chauffeur car.
The eighth generation Rolls-Royce Phantom starts at £351,486 so is a far more expensive choice. The Phantom has always stood unchallenged at the top of its super luxury vehicle class. Owning this classic gem adds prestige to any chauffeur outfit.
More affordable than its big brother the S-Class, the popular E 300 e AMG Line Edition plug-in hybrid, is priced from £46,230. The E-Class is a capable executive class chauffeur car. A polished performer with an upmarket interior. With autonomous emergency braking and nine airbags as standard, safety is strong.
Although the E-Class is not as luxurious as the other chauffeur cars, it is popular with chauffeurs within the business class sector, and is a reliable workhorse.
Go-anywhere in safety, comfort and style in the Range Rover Autobiography. Enjoy an elevated ride with luxury in abundance. An incredibly refined SUV with a spacious interior. The long wheelbase (LWB) version of the current Range Rover is some 200mm longer than the standard model and has larger rear doors for more legroom.
The new Range Rover LWB is likely to go on sale in 2021. Expect it to cost beyond £170,000 for the most expensive long-wheelbase model.
The Mulsanne is the first ground-up new design from Bentley in 80 years and does not disappoint. With a plush inviting interior to delight its passengers. And complete with acres of torque make this a very smooth ride – it also has real driver appeal.
Prices start from £240,930 in 2021 from Crewe’s production line. In 2016, the Mulsanne came facelifted to stand up to the Rolls-Royce Phantom and the Mercedes-Maybach S 600.
Some might call iChauffeur a ‘luxury taxi’ service. We certainly do offer a luxurious service, but we do not provide luxury taxis.
Strictly speaking, iChauffeur are a Transport for London (TfL) Licensed Operator of Private Hire Vehicles (PHV). Taxis are defined as cars available for immediate hire which can be hailed on the street, while PHVs must be booked.
Our vehicles do not have an amber light showing they are for hire. Nor do they have a taximeter fitted. You will not see our vehicles queuing in taxi ranks. Nor see them covered in decals, advertising or other livery.
But if your definition of ‘luxury taxi’ is a luxurious car for private hire, then we may indeed exceed your expectations.
For a start, you won’t get a driver, you’ll hire a chauffeur. A concierge on wheels. A motorised butler to cater for your every whim. Someone to open your doors, carry your luggage, hold your umbrella, charge your phone.
In fact with iChauffeur you won’t just get a chauffeur, you’ll get a great chauffeur. Someone who goes the extra mile.
So, iChauffeur is not a luxury taxi service, it is much more than that. A world-class, award-winning chauffeur company. With an experienced and helpful booking team to help you plan your travel.
As well as offering advice on journey times, or to explain how the meet and greet works. And keep you informed through every stage of the booking process. They will also allocate your personal chauffeur. Someone ideally suited to the requirements of your journey.
More than an app
We believe that there is a superior and safer alternative to taxi or ride-hailing rides. Bespoke travel can’t yet be done on an app. Life can be messy. It doesn’t follow a script. Personal attention to journey specifics is crucial to our clients. Especially during the pandemic.
Safety is very much in the details of the essential social distancing and sanitisation protocols. Which are are only as effective as the human-being carrying them out. Do you expect your taxi driver to spend 15 minutes before and after every journey sanitising their vehicle’s touch points? Expect your iChauffeur chauffeur to do just that.
More than a luxury taxi
Some might say that iChauffeur is a luxury taxi service. We would never say that. Don’t call us a luxury taxi, just call us.
Last month was our 15th birthday and to celebrate we offered you a 15% discount for any journey you made and booked with us in November. A few days after we announced this the country went into lockdown. Meaning many of you could not use your voucher. As lockdown ends we would like to extend our 15% offer throughout December.
Simply quote iChristmas when you make your booking and you will receive 15%* off your usual journey price.
Also, we have put together some discounted holiday shopping packages. So that you can buy gifts for your loved ones as safely and securely as possible.
Safe Chauffeur-driven Christmas Shopping Packages
London is famed the world over for having the best shops. Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges offer luxury brands on every floor. Fortnum and Mason for the world’s most loved and decadent food offerings. Shopping for children? Hamleys is the first port of call for toys and games and Lillywhites for all things sporty. Enjoy the best of London shopping with 15% off.
London Half Day Shopping £204.00 + VAT – save 15%
4 hours from pick up from your home/hotel to dropping you at your final destination **
London Full Day Shopping £408.00 + VAT – save 15%
8 hours from pick up from your home/hotel to dropping you at your final destination **
All offers include chauffeur-driven travel in the beautiful Mercedes S-Class. For larger groups (up to 7 passengers), the Mercedes V-Class also offers plenty of luggage space. So you can truly shop until you drop.
For your safety, all our chauffeurs have daily temperature checks and can take a COVID test on request ***. Each vehicle is meticulously sanitised before and after every journey.
Santa’s new helpers
For those of you wanting peace of mind with fragile and precious Christmas present deliveries let our team of Santa’s helpers make sure your gifts are delivered securely and safely. Our chauffeurs can collect from stores across the UK and take your gifts to their intended recipients the same day giving you peace of mind that your presents will not be left in the incorrect porch, or thrown into the wrong garden.
* Offer limited to one per household. Offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other iChauffeur offers or discounts. Offer only valid for journeys booked, paid and made in December
** Package from pick up address within the M25 to final drop off within the M25.
*** COVID test subject to availability, additional costs may be incurred.
We wish you all a happy holiday and we are looking forward to easing of restrictions in the coming months. Until then we are here to ensure that you can travel safely and securely in style and comfort.
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.
This morning I wake up at 05:00H, again probably because I have trained my body to function on 5 hours sleep.
I have a small home gym in my garage, and I spent 40 minutes on cardio and some weights as I have a long day ahead in the car with no real opportunity to do any exercise.
A day trip out to Oxfordshire
My Clients are staying at a very exclusive hotel in Knightsbridge and their pick-up time is 08:00H. Timing is not ideal as I need to get out to Bicester. I will need to drive through West London in rush hour and the last thing my Clients want is to spend precious time in traffic. The route I have planned to get to Bicester is considerably longer in terms of mileage, but it will avoid much of the traffic. Many chauffeurs would not do this as the journey will cost more because in fuel, but for me it is more important that my Clients start their journey smoothly. The first 10 minutes of any journey really dictates the tone for the day and it is so vital that the day starts well.
I pull up to the hotel and chat with Steve, the head concierge and ask him about my Clients.
Again this is a small detail but the more insight I can get on my Clients the better, it can be anything from the couple are crazy about the Royal Family to one of the Clients is a famous chef in California and really craves privacy.
Steve tells me that the Clients are a young Chinese couple who seem very much in love, but nothing more.
I send an SMS to the Clients letting them know I am outside and about five minutes later Mr Kim appears without his partner. “Oh no!” I think immediately, have the couple had a row or is she ill? My mind races with all the possibilities and how this could impact on the day I have carefully planned out.
I greet Mr Kim with a traditional namaste, and he responds in kind and then tells me he plans to propose to his girlfriend over lunch and wants the occasion to be romantic and memorable. Although I am a big fan of Bicester Village, I am not sure that proposing to your girlfriend in a retail village is the most romantic gesture.
Mr Kim wants my advice and recommendations for the day. I tell him I had booked a table at a beautiful country house restaurant for their lunch, however I ask him to leave it with me, and I will try to come up with some suggestions that we can discuss when we arrive at the village. There he may have a few moments away from his girlfriend.
So now I have about 2 and a half hours to come up with ideas for Mr Kim and how to make his proposal truly memorable. His girlfriend appears and I give Mr Kim a conspiratorial wink and open the car for the couple.
The S-Class purrs into action as we pull out of the hotel and head towards the picturesque Berkshire countryside. My challenge now is that I need to create a beautiful experience for my Clients, but I am driving and so cannot even make any calls to start planning and investigating options for Mr Kim.
My brain goes into overdrive as I mentally try to re-plan the day for the Clients. As I mentioned, chauffeurs need to develop good relationships with concierges, and also Maître d’s. There are many beautiful hotels and restaurants in that particular area and my brother happens to be married to the maître d for one of the most romantic and famous hotels locally.
The journey is uneventful, and as we drive I switch into ‘chauffeur-guide’ mode and share with the Clients little known facts about the region. We pass by the exit for Oxford and I tell them about how Christ Church College has had no less than 13 prime ministers as well as being home to the world smallest Cathedral.
We arrive around 10:30 at Bicester and park in the VIP parking, only a few steps away from the village. Discreetly I advise Mr Kim that I have a plan of sorts but will need sometime to organise the fine details. Mr Kim and I arrange to have a call in 30 minutes, and we agree to head off in 3 hours for lunch.
As soon as the Clients are out of view, I pull out my mobile phone and call the Maître d at le Belmond aux Quatre Saisons. I explain the situation and organise a private dining experience with a harpist for lunch, plus champagne and roses (it may sound corny but in my experience most women love flowers).
I call the country house hotel I had originally booked and express my apologies and cancel the reservation. I then call Mr Kim to discuss the Belmond option, which my Client informs me sounds perfect. Mr Kim asks me to organise a huge bouquet of flowers to give his partner, his budget is £200.00 and so I am fairly sure I will be able to organise this for him, even in only a 2 hour window.
I ring the office and advise them of the day’s developments and the office organise the flowers for me to collect from the closest florist.
Flowers collected and secured safely in the boot I am back in the VIP parking ready for Mr Kim and his partner to arrive, and I get into RTO mode.
I glimpse the personal shopper assigned to the couple struggling with an array of bags from the Haute couture boutiques in the Village which we carefully place in the boot. It’s a tight squeeze and I take extra care to ensure that the beautiful bouquet of flowers is untouched. The hotel is only 20 minutes away and we weave through the pretty villages and market towns and arrive just after 13:45H. I pull up to the elegant manor house and escort Mr Kim and his wife to the hotel entrance where they are met by the Maitre D.
le Belmond aux Quatre Saisons
I know the couple will be at least 2 hours and so I use this time to go to a local supermarket to buy a card and bottle of champagne for them – it is not every day I get to help plan a proposal and I feel privileged that Mr Kim has entrusted this with me.
At around 17:00H the couple, now fiancé and fiancée emerge from the Hotel. Clearly, they have had an amazing experience, and they are walking hand in hand towards the car. The flowers I procured for Mr Kim are on the front seat (as agreed with Mr Kim) and I hand them to him discreetly along with my congratulations card and bottle of champagne.
The drive back to Knightsbridge is filled with laughter, phone calls to friends and family as the couple share their happy news.
I drop the couple off at 20:00H, a full 12 hours since I first picked them up and I realise I need to eat! I park up and hurriedly seek out the Tupperware boxes I prepared early and tuck into my long overdue lunch before I start my final drive of the day ….
At home , I follow my usual car sanitisation routine before going inside to check over my emails and plan for the following day, which at the moment looks quite quiet, just a couple of Gatwick airport runs, one at 9am and the other at 19:00H. Traffic is always an issue around Gatwick, the slip road to the airport is constantly being repaired and resurfaced and this can cause a delay of hours. I plan my routes for tomorrow, including my plan B route and then head to bed.
Today in theory is a later start. I need to be at London City airport by 07:00H. However, when I checked last night the roadworks on the main artery into London City Airport were still in full flow. So I need to allow an extra hour in case traffic has already built up. Unless you live east of City Airport (which I do not) this airport is always a challenge to get too. Again, this is a trade secret, there is a tiny little known backstreet behind the airport where parking is still reasonable. I head over there and find the last space.
Before leaving for the airport I spend 30 minutes thoroughly sanitising my car, and as always, pay special attention to areas in the car my Client from yesterday may have been in contact with. Once I am finally satisfied that the car is thoroughly cleaned I grab a new sterile mask and head off.
I arrive at my secret street just after 6am – an hour before my Client is due to arrive. I listen to the headlines and check my flight app and see the flight is scheduled to arrive slightly ahead of time. I find it more useful to use a specific airport flight app rather than a generic one covering all UK airports. So if i’m picking up at Heathrow I will use the Heathrow app and at London city airport I will use their app. I don’t want to be stuck in a queue getting into the car park, so I wait another 20 minutes, and then make the short 3 minute drive to airport parking.
Above and beyond duty
I park up, grab my iPad (which I also use as a name board) put my mask on, and walk over to the Arrivals Hall, with 15 minutes to spare before the flight lands.
As per protocol, I send an SMS to my Client advising them of my exact location in arrivals, and ask them whether they would like a tea or coffee.
I can see that the flight has landed and hear the familiar ring tone advising me that I have received an SMS. It is from my Client. She would love a green tea and a fruit salad, oh and then the bombshell; she tells me that she needed to bring all the Expo stand equipment with her, and could my car accommodate an additional 15 pieces of luggage as well as her own overnight case!?
I pride myself on being on available to help every Client, but I know that attempting to get 15 large pieces of luggage into my Mercedes-Benz S-Class, is never going to happen. From my experience, I have about 15 minutes before she will clear security, and so I call the office and relay the situation to Andy who is our Head Controller.
Today is my lucky day, or rather my Client’s lucky day. Another iChauffeur driver in a Mercedes V-Class, has just left LCA and is only 10 minutes away from the car park, and is now heading back to the airport to avert the luggage crisis.
Another tactic I deploy often, is rather than taking the Client to his/her hotel and then onto their meeting, I take the Client directly to their meeting and then head over to their hotel with their luggage and leave it with the concierge.
We managed to get right to the front at the arrivals hall, so that we could help the Client at the earliest opportunity, with what is clearly going to be a lot of luggage.
My Client is absolutely delighted that we have managed to organise transport for her luggage, and even more impressed that she will get to her first meeting with plenty of time to spare.
A new breed of lady chauffeurs
Today the V-Class colleague is one of the few lady chauffeurs I know in London. Having worked with her for many years, I know she is as capable as any of us in handling heavy and awkwardly shaped luggage, but that doesn’t stop my Client from looking slightly shocked that this elegant beautifully dressed lady I am with is actually a chauffeur.
She and I together quickly split up the luggage and arrange to meet in an hour at the hotel.
Safely ensconced in the comfort of the back seat of my car, my Client eats the fruit salad I purchased for her earlier. I have no objections to Clients eating in my car at all – we all need to eat, but even the slightest spillage of either her tea or fruit salad will make a terrible stain on the pristine cream leather seats.
The Gin and Tonic test
One thing my Father impressed upon me (and before you ask, yes he was a chauffeur also) was the ability to pass the gin and tonic test! My father said Clients should be able to sip a gin and tonic in the car whilst you are driving without causing any spillage. This means that literally my Clients should not be able to feel any sudden braking or acceleration, the journey has to be smooth from start to finish.
Generations of experience
Fortunately, my Father taught me well, and we arrive at the offices with breakfast eaten and the back seat of my car remains spotless. I park outside the offices and let the Client out directly onto the pavement. Again, a tiny detail, but I planned my route to ensure that when I arrived at the offices for the meeting, my Client would be able to exit the car directly onto the pavement (rather than run the risk of standing in the middle of a busy road opening the car door expecting my Client to negotiate her walk to the pavement whilst dodging cars and cabs).
I head over to the hotel in Shoreditch and meet up with a V-Class Chauffeur. She and I both manage to get a parking spot in the hotel courtyard, but are given strict instructions by the hotel’s Head concierge, that we can only stay in the bays for 15 minutes as a V.I.P is due to arrive.
Hotels, Concierge, Service
In this job we work a lot with hotels, and having a good relationship with all the concierges across the many 5 and 6* hotels in the capital is vital. The concierge know where the traffic cameras are hidden and the routines of police and traffic wardens around the hotel.
The role of a concierge is remarkably similar to that of a Chauffeur, the needs of our Clients are paramount. From securing a table at the newest most popular restaurant in town, to getting tickets for the finals at Roland Garros, no request is too much trouble. Being part of the iChauffeur family means I also have a great network of other chauffeurs and office personnel to go to. I remember last summer in early July a new Client decided on a Saturday morning that he and his wife wanted to see the Wimbledon’s Men’s tennis final the following day. I managed to organise this (in less than 3 hours) with the help of Andy and the team in HO.
By the time the luggage has been deposited with the concierge, it is already 10:00H, and I know my Client has requested a pickup in 3 hours to take her to her hotel.
I arrive at my gym in good time for my session which today will only be an hour.
A Chauffeur should eat well
I mentioned earlier about diet and the fact that this job can be very sedentary. I have seen chauffeurs start in the industry looking in pretty good shape, and after 5 years of being a chauffeur, they have gone up 3 suit sizes. I try to visit the gym at least 4 times a week, and the great thing about a career as a chauffeur, is that I can plan my days to include gym time and usually my gym time is when all the 9-5 people are in their offices , so I usually almost have the gym to myself.
There is nothing worse than being hungry in a remote business park waiting for a Client with nothing to eat. Usually in the morning, I take enough food for at least 2 meals, plus some healthy snacks. My job is quite sedentary and so I try to have healthy food in my car so I can avoid snacking on sugary foods.
Even if I am just doing a simple airport run, and will be away from my house for 2 hours, I still pack extra meals as I never know what is going to happen during the day (case in point from last night when I got home six and a half hours later than I originally envisaged).
Most of my fellow iChauffeur chauffeurs follow the same routine, and often if we are on a job with multiple cars, we all sit together outside tucking into our home-made meals and comparing notes. This does not work for everyone though, I know of a couple of chauffeurs who cannot resist the temptation of having food in their car, and have had their breakfast, lunch and supper by 11 am ….
The car wash
Workout completed, I drive back to collect my Client, and take her to her hotel. My next job is not until this evening and so I head home via my favourite car wash. It may sound a bit extreme having a favourite car wash. However I think that there are only 3 car wash locations across the whole of London I would use, and I can spot immediately if the car wash is going to be good.
The secret is in the bucket the car wash guys use. If the buckets in the car wash are just regular buckets, then that’s my sign to turn the car around sharpish, and find another car wash. The reason is quite simple, the car accumulates lots of tiny pieces of grit and stones which get washed off with sponges and cleaning cloths. If the buckets do not have a special grill to collect the grit, when the cloths are being rinsed, then all that happens is that the grit and grime gets retransferred back onto the car causing lots of minute scratches, just like skates on ice.
The guys in the car wash know me well and I chat with them whilst they do an amazing job of making my car sparkle and gleam. I have been coming to this car wash for over 10 years and so we are almost like family. I recommend this car wash to all my fellow iChauffeur chauffeurs, who are equally as meticulous about their cars, and over the years I must have sent over 20 chauffeurs to them. During this time of COVID -19 they wear disposable gloves and masks which they change before each client to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Bicester Village VIP
Now back at home I catch up with my administration and start planning for tomorrow. I have a Chinese couple who have booked an 8 hour ‘as directed’ hire via Bicester Village to include lunch. As an iChauffeur Client, the Chinese couple will be given free VIP passes to the Village, and it also means I get to park in the VIP parking which is the closest to the Village entrance. I know the area very well, and also know the managers of the best restaurants and afternoon tea spots in the are,a and so I can always get a table for my Clients no matter how busy the eatery is.
Having a VIP pass also means my Clients will get additional discounts as well as hands free shopping, a personal shopper and exclusive access to the Apartment, a super luxurious lounge area nestled in the heart of Bicester Village.
I book a table for 14:30H the following day for lunch and for my Clients, have a check on roadworks and any possible trouble spots for my journey tomorrow and then have a quick 40 winks.
I know many chauffeurs can sleep in their cars but it is not something I can do. My car is essentially my place of work and for me it just doesn’t feel right sleeping in the office. Tonight should not be too late, but I have had a couple of early starts this week, and so I grab the chance for an energising power nap.
Having showered and put on a fresh shirt, I grab some fruit, a new mask and jump into my car. My Clients this evening have booked dinner at a famous restaurant in Mayfair, and I already know that the area will be swarming with chauffeurs, as it is a beautiful evening, perfect for dining al fresco.
I ring the entry phone to the large impressive house and once the automatic gates open my car glides to their Georgian mansion. I feel like I am in deep countryside such is the size of the estate it is hard to imagine that Wimbledon Village is only a 10 minute walk away.
I stand by the car and escort my clients into the car and drive down the deep gravel drive and onto the main road.
One of the many qualities a chauffeur needs is absolute discretion and tact. As well as knowing when to talk and when to listen. All qualities of a great chauffeur, and although I can hear my Clients are unhappy about something, I obviously do not make any comments.
Once we arrive at the restaurant my Client advises me that his wife is not feeling great, but they had arranged to meet friends over from Europe for the evening, and so they were keen go ahead with the dinner.
My Client said that they would be at least 2 hours as they strolled under the dark green canopied entrance of the restaurant. Usually I would find a parking spot and stretch my legs for half an hour and maybe grab a decaf coffee, but tonight I decide to just stay as close to the restaurant as possible, in case my Client’s wife starts to feel any worse. The last thing they would want is to have to wait 15 minutes for me to get to my car and meet them if they wanted to go home immediately.
As if on cue I receive a call from the Client, his wife really does not feel up to dinner and so they would like to go home as soon as I can get to them. They were so relieved when I said I was still outside, and I helped them into the car, and we headed back towards Wimbledon.
I dropped them off just after 20:30H and then called the office to let them know in case any other work is available. Sadly, for me no-one needs a chauffeur tonight and so I set out on my drive home.
One of the many perks of the job is that I get to drive such a beautiful car. It really is an absolute joy to drive and a 3 hour journey can sometimes seem like an hour, especially when I have Clients that want to talk.
Once I have parked up in my drive I set about cleaning and sanitising my car. I had already done most of the planning for the next day, and so I do a final check on the relevant websites to see if there are any new traffic issues that could impact on my tour the following day, set my alarm, another day over.
Ever wondered what it would be like to be a professional chauffeur?
Driving the rich and famous to glamorous destinations in the world’s finest vehicles? To many this might seem like their dream gig. But what is it really like? Journey with us in this new 7 part series. Discover the demands, challenges and joys of 5 star chauffeuring, even during the global Covid pandemic.
So what does a typical week look like for our chauffeurs? What we found was that no two weeks, in fact no two days, are the same. The famous Scouting motto ‘Be Prepared’ readily applies itself to the demands of the professional private hire driver. Read on to discover the realities and changeable nature of the work, hopefully it will instil an appreciation of the challenges involved.
Follow David in his beautiful Mercedes-Benz S-Class to see what he got up to over the course of 7 days. Read David’s account, in his own words, of a ’typical’ work week, starting on Monday 27th July, 2020.
Monday July 27, 2020
I know 3am is very early but to be honest I don’t really need the alarm if I have an early airport pick up or drop off. I tend to wake up naturally around 3am – it must be the last 10 years of doing this job.
My day really starts the night before when I prepare for the next 24 hours. It may sound simple – go to the airport and then into the City, but I need to check first if there are any events or protests that could affect my route, then look out for roadworks, and log the flight into my flight tracker app on my phone. This app is great and gives me 15 minute notifications on the status of any flight. I also look at the itinerary to see if there are any addresses I am not familiar with – if so, I will go onto Google Earth, and have a look at the facade of the building so that I’ll be able to recognise it. My final part of the planning process is to map out my best route(s) – always have a backup in case of accidents.
Last job of the day is to sanitise my vehicle again using our new iChauffeur cleaning protocols, which takes me another 30 minutes. Although I sanitised the car when I dropped my last passengers off about 4 hours ago, I want to take extra care to do what I can to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Back to this morning, I am out of the house by 4am, having done a quick polish of the car, even though I did one last night sometimes the odd cat wanders into my garage and what better place to sleep than on the roof of a super luxury sedan like the Mercedes S-Class.
I check that I have enough hand sanitser wipes as well as sanitising gel and wipes for the car interior, plus extra masks in case any Clients forget them.
I wash my hands and put on a new face mask and jump in the car and set off for Heathrow Airport.
My Client is a regular for iChauffeur who commutes weekly from New York to London.
However with COVID -19 the new headquarters have temporarily been relocated to their main industrial plant in Italy. He is working from the Rome office, and today he is on one of the earliest arrivals into T5. I head to VIP parking (which is a bit more expensive) but it is a shorter walk from arrivals. My Client is always in a rush, and so even 6 minutes saved on walking to the car park, is definitely worth it to try to avoid the rush hour ( I think it should be hours!) getting into the City.
It’s only recently that the coffee shops have been open at Heathrow – back in April and May nothing was open and so it’s great now that slowly things at Heathrow are emerging after the COVID shutdown.
Meet and greet
I grab a cappuccino for me, and a double shot macchiato and fresh orange juice for my Client, and wait for him to come striding through the Arrivals Hall. He knows I am always early, and he knows where to meet me in the terminal – again this spot is calculated to be the shortest walk to the VIP car park.
Client safely on board, I head over to his London pied-a terre, which is located right in the heart of the city, in the Barbican. There he can freshen up and get ready for the day ahead. My Client rushes into his apartment, and I will now wait for about an hour, and then take him to his first meeting.
There is a lot of waiting around when you are a chauffeur, but I somehow always find things to do – first I check my emails and messages, and see whether I have any new jobs I need to plan for. I have already planned out today’s itinerary (something I do every night as you will see from reading my blog for the week) and I have a couple of new jobs for later in the week which I schedule onto my calendar and let the office know I am available to do the work.
My Client emerges from the complex’s double storey glass and aluminium doors and we are off. Once he is safely in the back of the car I close his door and then head off for his first meeting.
On arrival at the offices nestled in the heart of the city, I open the door for my Client, and he tells me he will be at least 2 hours before he will need me to take him for his lunch rendezvous in Kensington.
Double Red Lines
For those of you that do not know the city, not only are there double yellow lines almost everywhere, there are also many double red lines. Double red lines are closely monitored by cameras as well as the army of traffic wardens that appear out of nowhere. Under no circumstances are you allowed to ever park on a double red line. This makes parking especially difficult, but luckily most of us chauffeurs, still know of a few hidden parking spaces around the city.
The dilemma is that if a Client’s meeting finishes an hour early, as a chauffeur you need to be in a position that you can easily get to him, which means parking as close to the drop off point as possible.
One handy trick is to find a supermarket car park, where the charges are usually fairly minimal, and park there. Today I head off to a supermarket 3 minutes drive away where I park up, grab some lunch, and also use the time to give the car a quick vacuum inside and polish outside.
After 90 minutes, I head back to the office where I dropped my Client earlier, and park on a metered space and wait for him.
His meeting finishes early, and I spot him walking out of the building holding his phone, which he is using to call me. After the second ring, and before I answer his call, I miraculously glide up to him and he looks astonished, how on earth did I get to him before he had even spoken to me!
Heading off to Kensington, I take a somewhat circuitous route, advising my Client that there are protests around Trafalgar Square, and along the Embankment but we still arrive 10 minutes before his lunch meeting.
My Client is Very Clear and almost barks at me: “David, make sure you are back here at 3pm, as I would like to go back to the office then.”
“Absolutely no problem Sir,” I replied.
Today my Client is visiting a famous hotel for lunch. Fortunately, I know the head concierge and he lets me park outside the hotel in one of their precious parking bays reserved for VIPs. Great – I have some time to catch up on my paperwork and also to talk with the office. This is the last job of the day so I called my wife to let her know I should be home at about 16:00H.
Ready to Open
At 14:30H I get into what I call my RTO (Ready to Open) position – this means as soon as the hotel doors open and I see my Client, I can be outside my car with the passenger door open and ready for him. It doesn’t sound like much, but as part of the service, I know it is really impressive that I am ready with the car door open before my Client has even seen me.
The waiting game
So now it’s a waiting game. In situations like this I personally cannot relax and listen to the radio. I am on high alert turning my head every-time the hotel doors open. Soon it is 17:30 H – my Client, is either having a great lunch, or maybe there is something wrong. I think back, did I mishear him? Was it maybe 18:00 H and not 15:00 hours? The last thing I want is to interrupt my Client’s lunch, but also I have a sense of duty to check that he is OK. I send him an SMS advising him that I am still here and checking he has not forgotten.
I get a reply immediately, thanking me and advising he will only be another thirty minutes at the most.
At 19:00H there is a shift change and a new concierge team arrives. I go and have a quick word with them telling them I should be gone within the hour.
The next 3 and a half hours are spent keeping the doorframe of the hotel in sight, and finally at 21:00H my Client emerges. We head back to the Barbican where I take my Client to the front door and see him safely inside and then head home.
My 16:00 H ETA was a tad optimistic as a glance down at my watch – it’s now 22:30 H.