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Holiday Travel Guide | SHUTTLES

Getting to the Airport: Vans, Taxis and Limos

Now that private cars are not permitted to stop in front of LAX terminals, alternative transport makes sense for many passengers.


The plane crashes that turned the travel world topsy-turvy are throwing a few curves at the shuttle and taxi business too.

Ever-changing estimates of the number of airport-bound travelers this holiday season keep shifting the supply-versus-demand equation. Old guidelines about how far ahead travelers should make reservations to ensure a ride to the airport are out the window. Or are they?

Some shuttle companies expect business to be down compared with last year, meaning vans and taxis will be readily available, even on short notice.

Others think that despite the possibility of lower air-passenger counts, more fliers will seek shared van rides and taxis to avoid traffic hassles and inconvenient passenger drop-off points, both potential problems stemming from heightened airport security. As of press time Tuesday, private cars arriving at LAX could not stop at the curb by the terminals; passengers had to detour into parking structures across the street and lug their bags inside.

Any shuttle, taxi or limo, however, can stop curbside at the terminals of Los Angeles International, Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena, John Wayne and Ontario International airports. (See accompanying box for each airport's policy.)

The best way to the airport depends on your priorities--cost, convenience or flexibility.


Shared van services such as Prime Time Shuttle and SuperShuttle are often the most economical choice for solo travelers. One sample price quote for a randomly chosen 30-minute ride (West Hollywood to LAX): $22 for one person in a shared van; $55 for a private van that can hold up to seven passengers.

Recommendations on reservations vary. SuperShuttle advises reservations two to three days before holiday departures; Xpress Shuttle says 24 hours.

"We're recommending reservations two weeks out for Thanksgiving and Christmas," Prime Time communications director Michael Kaliczak says. Though the company often can accommodate last-minute bookings, passengers without reservations risk being turned away during peak travel hours. "There are isolated time frames when we reach capacity," Kaliczak says.

One caveat: Shared van services often recommend an earlier pickup time than taxis because the shuttle may have to stop for other customers. This season, that time buffer is increased because most airlines want passengers to arrive earlier than in years past--as much as two hours before departure for domestic flights, three hours for international (but check with your airline to be sure). For our hypothetical West Hollywood traveler with a 6 p.m. flight at LAX, one company suggested a pickup time of 3 p.m. For the trip from El Segundo to neighboring LAX, however, another company suggested a pickup 31/2 hours before flight time.

Many offer online reservations, and some provide discounts for customers who book round-trip service and pay with a credit card. The major shuttle companies include:

Prime Time Shuttle, (800) RED-VANS (733-8267) or (310) 342-7200,

SuperShuttle, (310) 782-6600, (323) 775-6600, (213) 688-0444 or (714) 517-6600,

Xpress Shuttle, (800) I-ARRIVE (427-7483) or (310) 320-9300,


Cabs may be more economical for people traveling shorter distances or riding with others to the airport. Cab fare for that West Hollywood trip is about $30, so a couple or a family of four will spend less per person. They also may be more convenient, since cabs generally don't pick up as far in advance as shuttle vans.

Many taxi companies recommend reservations 24 hours before departure during the holidays, though most will be able to accommodate last-minute requests. The exception: New Year's Eve, the busiest night of the year, says Mike Calin, general manager of Bell Cab, (888) BELL-CAB (235-5222). Many companies work on a first-come, first-served basis that night.


Some limo companies offer airport service in Lincoln Town Cars and other sedans. ILS Limousine Service, (323) 466-5466, quoted a price of $55 for the ride from West Hollywood to LAX. The company suggests reserving one week ahead for Thanksgiving and two weeks ahead for Christmas. Prices and policies vary by company, so call around. Dynasty Limousine, (800) 625-5466, for instance, needs only a couple of days' notice but charges $70 for the same trip.

And for you travelers who procrastinate and find yourselves without a ride on the day of your flight? Take heart: Some companies operate on chaos, just like you.

"To be honest, making reservations doesn't help," says Dmitre Zarez, operations manager for United Independent Taxi, (800) 822-8294. "Just call us when you're ready to depart."

Drop-Off Policies at the Airports Local airports have different rules about which kinds of vehicles--cars, taxis, shuttles and limou-sines--can drop off or pick up passengers curbside at terminals. Policies as of press time Tuesday:

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