Traveling Vegas to L.A.? Luxury chauffeur service merges onto the scene

There’s another option for travelers to make the commute from Las Vegas into Southern California.

Blacklane, a global chauffeur service based in Germany, is now offering upscale one-way passenger car service between Las Vegas and Los Angeles for $699.

The fee is a flat rate, so multiple riders can chip in for the fare. It also doesn’t deviate based on high-travel periods or traffic patterns.

Like so many other businesses, Blacklane, which operates in about 50 countries, had to pivot its offerings when the global pandemic hit last spring.

Blacklane went from making shorter drives, such as taking passengers to and from the airport, to offering long-distance rides.

“In a matter of weeks, we lost about 99% of our business,” said Sascha Meskendahl, chief revenue officer for the company. “When people largely stopped traveling through the air, we knew we had to change our business.”

Blacklane targets customers who don’t want the travel risks at the airport, whether that’s exposure to the coronavirus or delayed flights. The customers, of course, also don’t want to drive themselves.

In the U.S., Blacklane in March started selling packages like Miami-to-Orlando, New York City-to-Philadelphia and Milwaukee-to-Chicago.

In addition to the independent traveler, Meskendahl said Blacklane also picked up a lot of long-distance corporate business after the pandemic tightened its grip on air travel last year.

“Travelers were looking for a solution,” Meskendahl said. “With our service, customers are paying for the vehicle, not the seat, like they do on an airplane. If it’s split between two or three people, it’s becomes even more affordable, and we’ll pick people up at home.”

The way Blacklane works is similar to ride share services like Uber or Lyft, as a customer orders the service through a smartphone application.

App-based ride-sharing services also offer long-distance transportation.

For instance, during a recent weekday, an UberX ride from the Strip to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles would have cost just under $300.

That’s cheaper than what Blacklane offers, although a ride-share driver would also need to agree to take the fare.

“Our specialty is trusted chauffeur service around the world,” said Adam Parken, head of global communications for Blacklane. “Service is in our DNA. We’re not a platform that sees people and food as items in a logistics network.”

Blacklane has been available in the Las Vegas market since 2013. The company was launched in 2011.

The service — which, depending on routes and available drivers, can be booked in as little as 30 minutes or as far out as several months — uses existing car services, though it doesn’t partner with Uber or Lyft.

If a customer hails the L.A./Vegas route through Blacklane, one of the local companies they might use is Universal Limousine Service, owned by Carlos Camacho.

Camacho, who has owned the company for five years and worked in the transportation business in Las Vegas for about a dozen years, said most of his rides in Las Vegas involve picking up or dropping off at McCarran International Airport.

But he said the long-distance route between Southern California and Las Vegas is a comfortable way to go.

“It’s a clean, easy way to travel,” Camacho said. “Blacklane has been a great company to partner with.”

It’s no secret that the drive-in market — especially from California — has been important for Las Vegas during the pandemic.

Anyone heading west out of Las Vegas on Interstate 15 on a Sunday afternoon or evening knows that.

In 2019, the last full year before the pandemic, 21% of the roughly 42 million visitors who came to Las Vegas were from California, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and many of them drove here.

While there’s been talk of building a high-speed train from Las Vegas to Victorville, Calif., such a route wouldn’t be available for years, if ever.

Though it’s only been available for less than two months, the L.A.-to-Vegas route is one of the most popular long-distance routes for Blacklane in the U.S., along with some of the East Coast offerings.

“The pandemic created awareness for this type of travel,” Meskendahl said. “Our rides can also save time. If, for instance, a person lives in L.A. and is traveling by air, it can take an hour or two just to get to LAX. If you’re driving to Las Vegas, you’d be almost halfway there in that amount of time.”

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