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.
The COVID-19 pandemic made us re-evaluate and redefine our systems and protocols to ensure that we could protect both our clients and chauffeurs. Our industry leading Contactless Travel protocol has helped us deliver safer luxury travel. But what does this look like for our chauffeurs? How does this change the experience for our clients?
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.