Car service ripoff

I travel a lot, and when I fly into LaGuardia I usually book a car service to pick me up rather than wait in the taxi lines, which can be quite long, especially in the evenings or when there is bad weather. I usually use LimoRes (formerly Crown Limo), despite the bad service I’ve had from them before, but after the last few trips in which they attempted to charge me a waiting charge when they shouldn’t have, I’m shopping for a new car service to use, or suggestions on how to avoid rip-offs from supposedly legitimate car service companies in New York City.

Last night, we arrived from Toronto on AA flight #1084. Originally scheduled to land at 7:15, we encountered a 2-hour delay both on the ground in YYZ and in the air circling over La Guardia. We did not land until 9:11 PM and I was out of the terminal and on the phone with LimoRes at 9:18 to inform them I was ready to be picked up. This is well within the 45-minute grace period for international flights that LimoRes publishes on its website, which states that they check the time of arrival with the airline and dispatch the cars accordingly. We entered the vehicle at 9:27 PM, still well within the grace period. However, upon arrival at my apartment at 9:45, still within the grace period and only 34 minutes after we landed, the driver presented me with my bill, with a $16 charge for 16 minutes of waiting time included. The problem? LimoRes told the driver that we arrived at 8:40 PM.

I called LimoRes and they proceeded to tell me that they checked the flight time until 8:35 PM, at which time the airline had posted an 8:40 estimated landing time, so they made the decision to commit the car at that time. Their policy, he told me, was that they’d make the decision to commit the car at some point and then all subsequent time would be billed to the customer.

I call bullshit.

How is it my fault that LimoRes failed to give accurate information to their driver? When we landed, I checked aa.com on my phone and the flight status indicated we were still in the air with a projected landing time of 8:59 PM, which was much later than the time of 8:40 they had given to the driver (they later revised it to the actual landing time, 9:11 PM – see below). How am I supposed to inform them of the continued delay while I am in the air? (I ask this because the gentleman suggested that they have no other information to go on, and I could have provided it to them.) I might even be willing to accept their argument if we had asked to be picked up inside by a waiting driver with a sign, but we were being picked up outside by one of their fleet. I even had a voicemail when we landed with a different car number than the one we ended up in, so they had obviously been checking the flight for delays and changing cars at some point. Why couldn’t they have continued to do that after 8:35 PM when almost every flight into and out of La Guardia last night was delayed?

He eventually waived the charge, but not after saying that he was waiving it because I “didn’t understand their policy”. No, I understand their policy, and I think it is bullshit – and I also think it doesn’t match the published policy on their website, which states:

(3) Does LimoRes provide free wait for airport pick ups?

Yes. You get 30 minutes free wait for Domestic flights and 45 minutes free wait for International flights. We check the arrival time with your airline, and change your order to reflect the new arrival time. Your free wait starts from that time.

If it takes you longer to retrieve your luggage, or if you come out later than the allotted free wait, you will be charged for waiting time.

(4) Does LimoRes check flights for arrival times?

Yes. LimoRes will verify the arrival time for your flight. As long as you remain on the same airline and flight, you do not need to contact LimoRes-we will check the flight. Only in the event that you changed airline, or flight, will you need to call LimoRes and give us the new information for your pick up.

What the gentleman on the phone told me was that their policy is actually to commit a car at an arbitrary time of their choosing and to charge all subsequent time to the customer. What if we had circled La Guardia for another hour? I’ve certainly been on flights where we have circled a New York area airport for well over an hour. In fact, when my husband and I returned from our honeymoon in Italy on a delayed flight, the driver attempted to charge us 30 minutes of waiting time, when we were in the car less than 25 minutes after deplaning (again, well under the 45-minute grace period for international flights).

The frustration of dealing with what seems like a blatant attempt to rip me off makes me want to use another car service company – or just wait in the damned taxi line.

Opinions, complaints, recommendations for another car service company? Hit me up in the comments.

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