Does Booking A Hotel Car Service To/From The Airport Ever Make Sense?

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I was in Istanbul a couple of months ago, staying at the (excellent!) Conrad there, and was reminded of one of my hotel-related pet peeves: ludicrous hotel car service fees for travelling to/from the airport. It’s good that hotels offer these services, but the pricing is usually mind-bogglingly high.

The Conrad Istanbul was no exception. Here is the email I received a few days before I was due to check in:

Dear Madam/Sir,

Warm greetings from Conrad Istanbul Bosphorus.

For a hassle-free arrival to our hotel from the airport, we provide an array of transportation options including the most extensive fleet of Mercedes and BMW luxury vehicles.

Please kindly check the attached document, you may find different vehicle options with price list.

Our transfer service includes:

–              Greeting at the aircraft gate by CIP hostess and porter assistance until your transfer vehicle.

–              Privileged gate for visa transactions and passport control to avoid long queues

–              Assistance and privileged payment point at Duty Free Shops.

The VIP Meet & Assist Fast Track Service is included to the price only for arrival.

We look forward to welcoming you in Istanbul. Please do not hesitate to contact with us for further assistance or any information.

I clicked through and was presented with the following ‘offers’:

Ok, so the VIP Arrival Service could be useful, but the price for departing is the same and there are no fast track benefits included then. Also, note the small print – the ‘Premium Sedan Car’ can only carry 1-2 passengers. The prices above are all pre tax too, so add on another 18%.

The relevant pricing for me was for Ataturk Airport, so presumably now that operations there have moved to the new Istanbul Airport, which is further from the city, prices will be even higher. For context, an UberXL (which holds up to 6 people) between the Conrad and Ataturk Airport could be booked for £15-20.

If you’re wondering about the quality of the car being substantially different, all the UberXLs I’ve taken in Istanbul have been well maintained. I’ve even been driven in a Mercedes Vito on a number of occasions – the exact same car that would cost 205 Euros (+ tax) if booked via the hotel…

Bottom line

I can see why people might like the security and convenience of having a driver waiting for them when they arrive at an airport, but you could always just arrange a private transfer yourself in advance for a reasonable price. Paying a hotel 10x the going rate just seems crazy to me.

The Conrad Istanbul is far from being the only, or worst, offender by the way. The reason it stuck with me is because the hotel is generally superb value (it can be booked for under £80, or 30,000 Hilton Points per night) and the stay in all other respects was excellent.

Am I missing something about hotel car services, or do hotels just hope that a certain proportion of guests won’t care about the cost because they can put it on an expenses claim? 


  1. Bob says

    The lounge in the Conrad is superb. Both the Conrad and Hilton were cracking good value on the old Hilton points plus cash rate. 12k points plus 146TRY for the Conrad if I recall.

    • Joe Deeney says

      It really is great – although, did it used to have a view (I think I read somewhere that it did)? Now it’s just up from reception, but food and drinks v good and excellent staff. The hotel’s current pricing is a steal for Diamond members, whether using cash or points I reckon, but that old points and cash rate sounds incredible!

  2. Nigel Owen says

    I can understand why their prices are so high. If you think they have to pay for and maintain high quality vehicles and have drivers always available. Which is probably already more expensive than Uber etc as they don’t have bulk buying power.

    But it is the amount of usage that drives the price. They probably get used a few times a day, whereas the Uber will get 10+ journeys. Hence their cost per day can be split between more rides.

    The other element then is the corporate traveller whose company is paying his expenses, so will just take the easiest option – the hotel car – which keeps them in business at their higher rates. If companies incentivised employees to save expense costs, the hotel cars would go out of business.

    • Joe Deeney says

      I’m not sure – you would think that a high-end hotel would always have to have a car or 2 (and drivers) around anyway for events, vip services, and for ferrying senior members of staff anyway, so it strikes me as a sunk cost regardless of the revenue they can make from it. Also, we’re not necessarily talking really expensive luxury cars – I don’t know much about cars, but doubt a Mercedes Vito costs more than about £30,000?

      Charging double market rate would perhaps be understandable, but more than 10x just seems unnecessary.

      The second part I completely agree with.

  3. ianmac57 says

    I had a Grand Hyatt Beijing car booked for our first family holiday to China.
    The driver met us at the end of the jetty, collected our cases, straight through an ‘almost private’ immigration area and down in a lift to where the car was sitting waiting to go – perfect (but expensive – but worth it !!)

    • Joe Deeney says

      Yeah, if you’re getting picked up from the gate and fast track, particularly if travelling with family to an unfamiliar country, there’s a clear benefit and value there – even if expensive. I was thinking more when it’s literally just a car to the airport (and not necessarily even a nicer car than you can get with Uber for a fraction of the price).

      • ianmac57 says

        Times we’ve been back we just take the Metro to/from Dongdan to/from the airport !
        Can only remember once when we even took a taxi !!

        • Joe Deeney says

          Haha, that’s more like it 🙂 Aye though – once you know a place a bit it’s a different story, but for peace of mind on a first trip somewhere (with family) I can see the argument for VIP arrival service and car waiting for you.

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