Do you want to start an airport shuttle business? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting an airport shuttle business with NO money and no experience.
Okay, so we have provided you an in-depth sample airport shuttle business plan template. We also took it further by analyzing and drafting a sample airport shuttle marketing plan backed up by actionable guerrilla marketing ideas for airport shuttle businesses. In this article, we will be considering all the requirements for starting a airport shuttle business. So put on your entrepreneurial hat and let’s proceed.
Table of Content
- Why Start an Airport Shuttle Business?
- 1. Understand the Industry
- 2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- 3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
- 4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry
- 5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
- 6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
- 7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
- 8. Choose a Catchy Business Name
- 9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
- 10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
- 11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
- 12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
- 13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
- 14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
- 15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
- 16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies
- 17. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
- 18. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
Why Start an Airport Shuttle Business?
Building a successful business needs hard work, dedication and patience. Indeed you can decide to start any business of your choice if you have the right skills, knowledge and experience. This is why it is very vital that you choose a business that you can do well in. One of such businesses is the airport shuttle business.
If you are considering the shuttle business, then is very necessary that you decide on the target market. You should also create a business plan and you will need to study the market thoroughly. Doing this will help you know if the market is viable in your local area.
This type of business needs certified drivers, so great care should be taken when hiring employees. Your thorough research will also help you know the licenses and permits that you need to secure. Note that before getting a business license, you should decide on the business structure. Would you own the business solely or would you opt for an LLC? The latter is usually a great choice especially if the business needs a hefty capital.
Starting an Airport Shuttle Business – A Complete Guide
1. Understand the Industry
Businesses in this industry primarily engage in furnishing passenger transportation by automobile or bus to, from or between airports over fixed routes. Reports have it that the Airport Shuttle industry developed as air travelers looked for cheaper and more convenient ways to reach airports and their final destinations.
Urban sprawl, greater traffic congestion and more stringent security measures that have increased check-in and screening times have moved travelers to find other transportation methods to reduce travel time. We all know that airport shuttles provide the convenience of on-demand transportation service providers, while maintaining cost competitiveness through shared-rides and strategic partnerships with airports.
This is why the Airport Shuttle Industry has risen over the past decade, though it still rests on upstream demand for air travel. We believe that market share concentration has heightened over the past five years. Most industry businesses typically operate on a regional basis and do not offer the coverage of the largest major player.
From our detailed research, we were able to note that the Airport Shuttle industry experienced turbulence during the past five years, along with a reduction in air passengers because of the negative effects of the recession on consumers and companies.
Note that when disposable incomes declined along with rising unemployment, air travel suffered a significant drop, and demand for related transportation services also fell. Also the drag on corporate profit during the financial crisis and subsequent recession moved businesses to cut down spending on business travel.
But in 2010, some economic recovery led to a rebound in air travel, improving industry conditions. Industry experts believe that within the five years to 2022, a more stable economic recovery in the united states will likely increase air travel, supporting industry growth. But notably, competitive trends from the past five years will continue to dominate the industry.
Also because of increasing air traffic, the need for airport shuttle services is expected to expand. Also revenue growth will be limited by ongoing competition from external factors, such as travelers choosing to drive to and from the airport or opting for public transportation.
2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
Indeed airport shuttles transport people between the airport and either their homes, hotels, or where they parked their cars. Airport shuttles are used by business travelers, groups, families, and solo riders. The driver picks travelers up at a predetermined location and drops them off wherever necessary; typically with no more than two stops on each route.
We believe this lucrative business is right for people possessing the drive to own their own business and the hunger to interact with people. Since much time is spent on the road, the entrepreneur that enjoys driving would be the ideal person to start this business.
In this business, your prospective clients will be traveling, either for business or pleasure. This involves a large number of people, and every city has something different to offer travelers, you will need to conduct research specific to your area.
If your town is a tourist destination, vacationers from around the world might be your target audience. If you are living in an area that hosts large corporations or banks, individuals traveling for business would be a great demographic to choose. When doing your market research, you need to find out how many shuttle businesses are already operating, which areas of the city they cover, and what niche they have carved out for themselves.
3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
An Airport Shuttle Business can be lucrative provided you know commuting patterns in your city or know of an untapped niche market. We believe that starting an Airport Shuttle business involves a lot more than having a bus or a van at your disposal.
It requires a good understanding of your city’s commuting patterns, tourist attractions and other hot spots, as well as the required licenses and permits. You also need to decide the target market you are willing to target and focus on them. They will serve as your niche, which is very important if you wish to succeed in this industry. Your niche may include:
- Local shuttle services for leisure
- Local shuttle services for business
- Long-distance shuttle services
- Disabled travelers
- Medical transportation
- In airport shuttle
- Out airport shuttle
The Level of Competition in the Industry
Industry experts expect the airport shuttle industry to increase slightly during the next five years. They believe that an increase in domestic trips by US residents and inbound trips by non-US residents will go a long way to benefit the industry. But as shared ride options blow into more cities and drivers get permits to operate at airports, the cost of private car service is expected to reduce drastically and limit the price benefit of shuttle services, therefore suppressing industry demand.
But unlike a limousine, the biggest challenge to overcome in starting an airport shuttle service is to get an operator’s license. Note that an operator’s license can be very hard to get through local government channels in most areas of the country, and very expensive if you plan to purchase one from an existing shuttle service.
But we believe that it is certainly not impossible to obtain an operator’s license for a shuttle service, and it can be well worth the effort. Marketing a shuttle service is best accomplished by building alliances and partnerships with companies and local businesses that can supply you with customers such as hotels, tour operators, travel agents and large corporations.
4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry
- Super Shuttle Los Angeles
- Go Group LLC
- Prime Time Shuttle
- Fly away
Businesses in the shuttling industry charge each customer a fee for transporting them from Point A to Point B. Some charge per mile, while others charge a flat fee. When drafting your business plan, consider whether you would like to transport individuals or if you would rather work with large groups who are all headed to the same hotel, terminal, etc. We believe that as consumers become more conscientious about the environment, they will be looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint.
They are carpooling whenever possible, willing to share a ride with strangers. Without doubt, this paves the path for significant industry growth in the years to come. Any focused entrepreneur who is able to target a previously untapped demographic have realized significant growth. The key to long-term growth and success in this industry is a well thought-out marketing and networking strategy.
5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
When most people think of starting an Airport Shuttle Business, they think of beginning from scratch—developing your own idea and building the company from the ground up. However, starting from the scratch presents some distinct disadvantages, including the difficulty of building a customer base, marketing the new business, hiring employees and establishing cash flow … all without a track record or reputation to go on.
But if you are scared of the difficulties involved in starting an Airport Shuttle from the ground up, then buying an Airport Shuttle franchise is a better fit for you. Note that when you buy a business, you take over an operation that is already generating cash flow and profits.
Here you can boast of an established customer base and reputation as well as employees who are familiar with all aspects of the business. And you don’t have to reinvent the wheel—setting up new procedures, systems, and policies—since a successful formula for running the business has already been put in place.
Don’t forget that buying an Airport Shuttle franchise is most times more costly than starting from scratch, but we believe it is often easier to get financing to buy an Airport Shuttle franchise than to start a new one. Bankers and investors generally feel more comfortable dealing with a business that already has a proven track record. Also buying a business may give you valuable legal rights such as patents or copyrights, which can prove very profitable.
6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
Airport buses have been in use since the 1960s, when nationalized operator British European Airways employed the archetypal London red AEC Routemaster buses in a blue and white livery with luggage trailers on service to Heathrow Airport. This industry has been around for a long while and with each year comes new ideas, all these heaping threats and challenges of starting this business. These threats may include:
- writing a business plan
- Finding out what the requirements are for getting a chauffeur’s license in your state
- Filing all paper work
- Getting insurance
- Industry competition
7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
- Best Legal Entity to use for this type of business
There are a lot of factors to be debated when choosing the best form of business ownership when starting your airport shuttle business. Have it in mind that the type of business structure you choose will affect the way you file paperwork, face personal liability, pay taxes and, if necessary, file for bankruptcy protection. In the airport shuttle business just like any other industry in the world, you have five basic choices: a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a Limited Liability Company or a corporation–either an S corporation or a C corporation.
If you plan to start an airport shuttle business on a small scale, the best legal entity is the sole proprietorship because it is easy, inexpensive, gives you complete control of operating decisions and also gives you the control over generated income.
It is also easy to dissolve if the business does not go as planned. For a medium or large scale airport shuttle business, the LLC is the best legal entity because it provides Limited liability, less record-keeping and paperwork, and fewer restrictions on profit-sharing.
8. Choose a Catchy Business Name
- Super express
- Linked Transport
- American Shuttle
- Bon Voyage Airport Shuttle
- Navy Shuttle One
- Castle Suburban Coach
- Fresh Coach Lines
- Destination Shuttle
- Fast Bird Shuttles
- Golden Touch Transportation
- Favour Charter
- Texas Shuttle Service
- Metro Transportation Authority
- Fire Star Transportation
- Crest Airporter
- Easy Airport Shuttle
- Prime Time Shuttles
9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
In this business, you will sure have a lot of details to keep track of in the day-to-day operation of your business. A lot of shuttle services are offered as an add-on to other business services such as a hotel or resort offering airport shuttle services.
Other businesses operate shuttle services very much like standard airport shuttle cab services so that they can transport larger groups of people at once. But note that whether you offer shuttle services in the hospitality industry or you operate a shuttle transportation service itself; your vehicles are critical components of your business’s success. The types of shuttle and transportation insurance you will need for the best protection may include:
- Public liability insurance
- Medical payments
- Physical damage protection
- Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist etc.
10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
Intellectual property protection in the transportation industry just like any money making business is about protecting the time, money and effort you put into your business. It helps you to protect what’s yours, translate your handwork and ingenuity into profitable returns, set yourself up for growth or business expansion, keep competitors away, ensure you are not infringing on anyone’s right, prevent employees from aiding your competitors, attract investors and also promote your business to investors or potential buyers.
A lot of individuals in the transportation business believe that the intellectual property right is for big companies, but as a zealous individual who have worked hard to create and manage your airport shuttle business; it should be in your best interest to make sure your intellectual properties are for you – both now and in the future. Intellectual properties in the airport shuttle industry may include
- Registered and Unregistered trademarks – Your brands name of logo.
- Patents – typically a new way, process or material invented as a business innovation
- Company secrets
- Secrecy agreements – contracts that keep valuable information safe
11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
Professional certification is a process by which an individual develops the knowledge, experience and skills to perform a specific job. Once the individual completes a course of study, he or she receives a certificate earned by passing an exam that is accredited by an organization or association that monitors and upholds prescribed standards for the particular industry involved.
These certifications are needed in the airport shuttle industry to show customers and competitors alike that you are eager to stay relevant in the industry. Professional certification in the industry may include;
- Airport Security Coordinator Certification
- Airport certified employee
- Airport Operations Associate Certificate
- Accredited Airport Executive (A.A.E.)
12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
Every business has due processes, proper documents and permits needed in other to run its day to day activities. The airport shuttle business sure is lucrative but it is very important to follow all laws to avoid penalties. The federal government has its own transportation laws specific to any part of the transportation industry you plan to join.
In particular, any transportation that crosses state lines (i.e., interstate transportation) is subject to federal laws as well as the laws of the state of your original destination. Also know that certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an airport shuttle business.
You should also know that each state has its own administrative oversight and law enforcement bureaus and officers that enforce transportation and commercial driving regulations. A lot of businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide.
- Vehicles Registration
Businesses are expected to register vehicles which will travel across state lines for commercial purposes. Check here for a list of state requirements.
- Class B Driver Licensing Requirements
In some states, licenses are issued by classes, operating according to the weight of the vehicle being driven. Drivers of standard cars and trucks require a class A commercial driver’s license (CDL), while operators of heavier vehicles, including most tow trucks, require a Class B CDL to operate.
13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
Have it in mind that no matter how great your ideas and goals might be, without proper and enough financing; your ideas are just like water poured on a rock. Finance in the airport shuttle business is a big ingredient that can move a business to the limelight and without a detailed business plan; a company won’t be able to land sufficient funds from prospective investors.
Getting funds for a business is not an easy task because no one would want to pledge his/her money in a business that can’t guarantee returns and profits. Basic ways of financing an airport shuttle business include;
- Funds from Personal savings
- Getting loans from families and friends
- Taking small business loans
- Getting microloans
- Attract an angel investor
14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
When starting a airport shuttle business, one of the major decisions you have to make is to choose a suitable location for your business or administrative office. In order to do this, you have to make a careful assessment of costs. The ideal location should be one where costs are minimized. You should be able to look at the benefits which each area have to offer as well as any government help which might be available.
Whether you are expanding into new markets or assessing ways to reduce costs in your supply chain, the location of your office can have a major impact on your bottom line. Here are some of the things you need to consider when choosing a location for an Airport Shuttle Business office..
- Distance to the airport
- Characteristics of land
- Availability of labour
- Synergies with service providers
- Changes in market demands
- Demographics and workforce availability
- Changes to the transportation network
15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
We believe that individuals without the capital to start out with a fleet of vehicles and multiple drivers typically work out of a home office for the first year or so. Without the added expense of leasing a workspace, a lot of people are able to focus on what matters most – growing the business. We believe you should be having between $10,000 and $50,000 set aside for start-up expenses.
These numbers vary depending on what assets you currently have to offer. Also to cut down overhead expenses, a lot of individuals start out wearing many hats. They perform all administrative duties and drive customers to their destinations. As the business grows, they are able to add to their fleet, hire additional drivers, and employ an office manager to handle administrative tasks. Things you will need may include:
- Business structure documentation
- Insurance documentation
- Business license
- Local permits (if applicable)
- Sales tax license (if applicable)
- Permits from state department of transportation (if applicable)
- Regional map with airports and existing shuttle services
- Shuttle business operational framework
- Commuter package documentation
- Tourism package documentation
- Shuttle vehicle documentation
- Shuttle driver license requirements
- Rack cards
- Business cards
- Ad rates and copy for newspaper ads
The Service Delivery Process of the Business
Have it in mind that the specifics of your day will differ depending upon what skills you bring to the table and what aspects of the business interests you most. A lot of owners have the desire to be out in the field, transporting customers, while others prefer managing the office, leaving the driving to their staff. As a shuttle business owner, your days will be spent performing the following activities:
- Transporting customers
- Managing shuttle schedule
- Supervising shuttle drivers
- Performing routine maintenance on vehicles and make necessary repairs
You might decide to start up this business alone, handling everything right from the administrative duties to driving clients. Indeed it can be hectic, but you can start slow and expand as you grow. Things to keep in mind in this business may include:
- Build a regular pick up spot for each of your routes and make sure your customers are aware of when and where they should meet.
- When taking a reservation, always collect the client’s: mobile number, what flight they’re on, and how many are people in their party, their final destination, and any special instructions.
- Learn the airline codes and devise a system of monitoring flights.
- Keep a regular schedule that accommodates your customers, rather than trying to accommodate each individual’s schedule.
- Maintain your vehicles at all times. Safety is of utmost importance. Keep all maintenance records on file for future reference.
16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies
Indeed there are various groups of travelers that would need your airport shuttle services and it is your responsibility to know them and market your services to them. We suggest that you consider partnering with travelling agencies, hotels, or any company that is known to have high volume of travelers, and you can as well market your airport shuttle services to celebrities and top business executives who would need your exotic cars to transport them to and from the airport.
- Strong Competitive Awareness
Have it in mind that good marketing begins with an awareness of what your competitors are doing to attract customers and stir up sales. Note there is nothing wrong with creativity, but if it precludes your messaging from being represented alongside other airport shuttle businesses, there is a good chance that you are missing something. We suggest you seek a third-party perspective before you adopt any innovations that dramatically alter your marketing model.
- Event Sponsorships
Research and results have shown that sponsorships are an effective marketing tactic for many types of operations, including airport shuttle businesses. We believe that successful sponsorships build connections with customers; ineffective ones alienate customers and drain your marketing budget.
Note that it is important to accurately match your event and team sponsorships to likely shuttle transportation services business patrons. To minimize cost and multiply outcomes, consider teaming up with a complementary businesses to co-sponsor targeted events.
- Accurate Cost Tracking
We all know that the economy is a constant concern for people who own an airport shuttle business. You can’t afford to waste money on inferior marketing resources. Since every dollar counts, it pays to buy mailing lists from trusted vendors. Good mailing lists are money in the bank; they deliver leads, revenue and most importantly, new customers. Also note that mailing lists aren’t the only way you can reduce costs.
17. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
Most entrepreneurs who saw competition in their business as a bad omen have failed and crashed but people who saw it as a need to improve and create a stand have survived. Competition is what brings about ideas and creativity. Without competition, businesses and even the airport shuttle business would be boring and will lack new ideas and orientation, and no one will strive to satisfy the general public. Note that ways to win your competitors in the airport shuttle business involve you identifying a void or an opening in the airport shuttle business and filling it.
A business doesn’t necessarily have to be revolutionary in order to succeed. Rather than struggling to come up with a brand new idea, take a look at the industry and see where there is a void to be filled. Your services may be similar in many aspects to that of the competition except for a few defining factors. You should be great at all the basics, and then put your energy and focus on being exceptional at what makes you different.
Also note that another strategy to defeat your competitors is to create a customer-centric culture by teaching your drivers to exhibit a friendly personality. You also need to create an advantage and strive not to compete on prices. People might be happy to pay cheap fares but most people would take into consideration their comfort and happiness to the price they pay.
18. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
A lot of airport shuttle businesses have successfully increased their profits by implementing these strategies. People knowing where you are and the things you offer will go a long way in increasing revenue for your business. These strategies are:
- Get a land near the airport. We suggest that you have a parking lot and an office built on it. Indeed travellers can pay to park and you can have a van dedicated to getting travelers to the airport and back to their cars when they return. The building can serve as your office and the lot can store your fleet during downtime.
- During downtime, consider offering your shuttle services to places like nursing homes and medical facilities.
- Meet large corporations, casinos, and medical facilities in your area. Offer reduced fees for those who will retain your services for employees and customers who travel regularly. Contact your local school board to determine who transports children for sporting events and field trips.
- Get to know caterers and party planners in the community. Hosts often offer their guests off-site parking and shuttle service when parking near the party location is sparse.
- Offer multiple sizes and styles of vehicles. While your specialty is in transporting groups of people, you are limiting yourself if you only offer your customers one option. Remember, diversity is strength.