BEST FOR: Access to a network of concierges at more than 500 airports and professional chauffeur services in over 300 cities worldwide
PRICE: Blacklane PASS airport concierge – starts at $200 for the first passenger, $100 for each additional guest. Car service one-way from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to city center including tolls, taxes and tip: $75
CAR TYPE: Mercedes Benz E-class
CONTACT: Car service – blacklane.com. PASS concierge – pass.blacklane.com
BACKGROUND: Founded in 2011, Berlin-based Blacklane is another entry in to the already-crowded techno-enabled ground transportation field. However Blacklane has taken a different tack from either your typical ride-sharing app or traditional limousine services. As Blacklane co-founder Jens Wohltorf puts it, guests book Blacklane because of its “premium global consistency, reliability and cost certainty.”
BOOKING: It had been years since I’d flown solo into Paris Charles de Gaulle airport sans an interpreter/guide, and my high-school French was even more historic. So I decided given that background and a need to expedite my arrival into the city, some on-the-ground support would be well worth the cost. Blacklane seemed to be the easiest solution.
Actually Blacklane is two separate services. The one called Blacklane PASS provides airport concierge support for arrivals, departures and transfer passengers, while Blacklane is a network of professional chauffeurs in 300-plus cities around the world. This is important because the two distinct services need to be booked separately; I scheduled my PASS concierge at pass.blacklane.com; the car service can be booked on the blacklane.com website or on the free app. Both websites were easy and intuitive so I had no problems. However it’s a puzzle why one has to do the two-step – first one website, then the other – to get both services booked, or at find least link between the two sites.
ARRIVAL When my morning flight arrived at CDG Terminal 1, I was anticipating a long trudge through passport control and customs before meeting my concierge, whom text messages identified as Guillaume, on the other side of security. To my surprise, as I exited the aircraft door, Guillaume was standing in the Jetway to greet me. Grabbing my carryon, he maneuvered adroitly through the crowds to immigration, where – again to my surprise – he and I glided past the long line and up to the officer. Guillaume flashed his ID and we were immediately waved through. Within minutes we were curbside where Guillaume handed me off to my Blacklane driver, Kouete.
Really, I probably could have navigated CDG on my own, but factoring in the time saved and hassles avoided, the concierge service was definitely worth the extra money. Moreover, as trips get more complicated Blacklane PASS offers a host of additional airport services for arrivals, departures and transfers, such as VAT reclamation, check-in and luggage assistance and (for an extra fee) lounge access.
THE RIDE My driver into the city was Kouete, to whom I had also been introduced by text. The business class ride was a sleek Mercedes Benz E-Class, spotless inside and out. The morning commute in Paris is notorious and we soon found ourselves snarled in traffic. But the ride was comfortable, the jazz cool and the conversation amiable – everything had been seen to, so I could relax even in the face of frustrating delays. My arrival at the hotel a little late, to be sure, but hey, this is Paris after all.
VERDICT When I think about everything this experience could have been, but was not – long lines, language barriers, Paris taxi drivers – I have to say the Blacklane solution was well worth the money. Now if only their websites would work and play well together…