Business Overview


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. Vehicles are generally spacious, with ample room for riders to store their luggage.

Who is this business right for?

Individuals possessing the drive to own their own business and the inclination to interact with people would be best suited for this business endeavor. Since much time is spent on the road, the entrepreneur that enjoys driving would be the ideal candidate.

What happens during a typical day at an airport shuttle business?

The specifics of your day will vary depending upon what skills you bring to the table and what aspects of the business interest you most. Some 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 the shuttle business owner, your days will be spent performing the following activities:

  • Transport customers
  • Manage shuttle schedule
  • Supervise shuttle drivers
  • Perform routine maintenance on vehicles and make necessary repairs
  • Bookkeeping
  • Marketing

To reduce overhead expenses, many entrepreneurs start out wearing many hats. They perform all administrative duties and drive customers to their destinations. As the business grows, they’re able to add to their fleet, hire additional drivers, and employ an office manager to handle administrative tasks.

What is the target market?

It goes without saying that each customer will be traveling, either for business or pleasure. Since this encompasses a large number of people, and every city has something different to offer travelers, you’ll 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.

For entrepreneurs living in an area that hosts large corporations or banks, individuals traveling for business would be a great demographic to cater to. As part of your research, find out how many shuttle businesses are already operating, which areas of the city they cover, and what niche they’ve carved out for themselves. With a little investigation and innovation, your business can carve out its own niche.

How does an airport shuttle business make money?

Shuttle businesses 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.

What is the growth potential for an airport shuttle business?

As consumers become more conscientious about the environment, they’re looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. They’re carpooling whenever possible, willing to share a ride with strangers. This paves the path for significant industry growth in the years to come. Business owners who are able to target a previously untapped demographic have realized significant growth, expanding their fleet and driving staff to more than ten drivers. The key to long-term growth and success in this industry is a well thought-out marketing and networking strategy.

Getting Started


What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful airport shuttle business?

As consumers become more conscientious about the environment, they’re looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. They’re carpooling whenever possible, willing to share a ride with strangers. This paves the path for significant industry growth in the years to come. Business owners who are able to target a previously untapped demographic have realized significant growth, expanding their fleet and driving staff to more than ten drivers. The key to long-term growth and success in this industry is a well thought-out marketing and networking strategy.

What are the costs involved in opening an airport shuttle business?

Those 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, entrepreneurs are able to focus on what matters most - growing the business. Successful shuttle owners advise having between $10,000 and $50,000 set aside for start-up expenses. These numbers vary depending upon what assets you currently have to offer.

Before opening your “doors” you’ll need the following:

  • At least one reliable vehicle - Make sure you invest in a van that’s wheelchair accessible and can transport 14-20 passengers comfortably.
  • Fees for acquiring any required licenses
  • Scheduling software
  • Insurance
  • Website - While your site doesn’t have to cost a fortune, you do want it to offer the basic services. Most travelers are on-the-go, using their smartphones or tablets to book reservations and confirm plans. As your business becomes more profitable, you should also consider offering a mobile application. This service could attract a whole new set of customers.

There are a number of franchising opportunities in this industry. Driverseat’s franchising fees start at $35,000.

What are the steps to start an airport shuttle business?

Once you're ready to start your airport shuttle business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:

  1. Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
  2. Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your airport shuttle business is sued.
  3. Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
  4. Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your airport shuttle business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
  5. Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
  6. Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
  7. Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
  8. Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
  9. Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

What are some insider tips for jump starting an airport shuttle business?

Consider these insider tips from successful airport shuttle owners while drafting your business plan:

  • Establish 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, how many people in their party, their final destination, and any special instructions.
  • Learn the airline codes and devise a system for 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 the utmost importance. Keep all maintenance records on file for future reference.

Legal Considerations


Federal Business Licensing Requirements

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 law as well as the laws of the states you’re leaving from your original destination, passing through en route, and entering as your final destination.

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an airport shuttle business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Each state has its own administrative oversight and law enforcement bureaus and officers to enforce transportation and commercial driving regulations. According to the IRS, “two state agencies have regulatory authority over the trucking industry in each state: the Public Utilities Commission and the Department of Motor Vehicles.” These regulations include filing proof of insurance and obtaining permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

Vehicles

Registration

Businesses are required 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 most states, licences 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. More information can be found here.

Make sure your vehicle is disability-friendly and complies with the ADA, and also that you are complying with relevant airport ground transportation rules.

Reduce Personal Liability

Structuring your business as a limited liability company (LLC) ensures your personal assets are protected in the event your business is sued.

What is an LLC?

Form an LLC in 5 easy steps

Earning Potential


How much can you charge customers?

Pricing varies depending upon a number of factors, both regionally and based on the client’s specific needs.

What are the ongoing expenses for an airport shuttle business?

Until your business starts to grow, your ongoing expenses will be fairly minimal. You’ll have the cost of fuel, cleaning, and maintenance on the vehicle. Once you start building a fleet (and a team) your costs will rise significantly. Unless you’re comfortable with drivers taking the company vehicles home each night, a space to store your fleet will become necessary. This is the time to start looking into leasing office space. Experienced professionals cite payroll as their largest expense. A staff of nine could represent $35,000-$41,000 of your monthly budget.

How much profit can an airport shuttle business make?

There are a number of factors influencing your organization’s prosperity, resulting in varied published profits. Successful shuttle business owners, however, have reported a profit up to $30,000 the first year, jumping to $64,000 by the third year.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Airport shuttle businesses have successfully increased their profits by implementing these strategies:

- Purchase land near the airport. Have a parking lot and an office built on it. Travelers can pay to park and you can have a van dedicated to getting travelers to the airport and back to their car 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.

- Approach the 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’re limiting yourself if you only offer your customers one option. Remember, diversity is strength.

Next Steps

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