For Blacklane drivers, being on time is considered late. Punctuality is just one of the many principles taught to drivers during Blacklane's Chauffeur Academy, a mandatory two-day training program for all drivers employed by the global luxury car service. I got to see this top label in action during a return trip to New York's Carlyle Hotel on Wednesday night, where Blacklane gave NYLON a sneak peek at what's going on at Chauffeur Academy.
About 10 minutes before I left for the Carlyle, I received a text message informing me that my driver Ibragim had arrived. I'm so used to the complete panic that my Uber driver is going to leave me in the dust in the 30 seconds it takes to get down the stairs that I've forgotten that there's no need to rush at all: we tells Blacklane drivers to arrive at least 10 minutes before your scheduled departure (and even longer for airport trips). If you are not there on time, they wait at least 30 minutes before leaving.
It's all part of the elevated experience that Blacklane offers. The company has mastered the advantage of being able to book by time, day or destination on short notice, without sacrificing customer service. When you ride with Blacklane, you feel important – that's how I felt when I arrived downstairs to see my driver waiting for me, standing on the trash-lined streets of Bushwick in a black three-piece suit. (Blacklane drivers, I would soon learn, must wear a tailored two- or three-piece suit in black, navy or dark gray with a smart white shirt.)
My driver greeted me by name, asked how I was, and gently opened and closed the door for me. Once inside, he asked about the temperature, which was set at 68 degrees. Normally I debate whether or not to ask for the phone charger based on how annoying I think an Uber driver will be. But Ibragim not only immediately offered me a phone charger, but he also told me I could connect my Spotify. With a squirt of hand sanitizer, a Fiji water in my hand and Lana Del Rey on the speakers of an Audi A8, I was in luxury. We drove downtown, which took much longer than usual because President Biden was visiting the Upper East Side, but Ibragim weathered road closures and police caravans without problem, somehow navigating backroads to get me to my destination earlier than expected. I was so relaxed that I fell asleep.
Once at the Carlyle, Blacklane gave a presentation on what exactly happens at the Chauffeur Academy, which immediately made me understand why the ride made me feel like I was in a different tax bracket. Every detail of the interaction is taught and practiced, from the greeting drivers use to open the door, to the seating arrangement. For example, if it's a business trip, the highest ranking person sits first. Drivers are trained in defensive driving techniques and graceful gestures; they must be able to drive a vehicle seamlessly while guests toast champagne in the backseat. Blacklane drivers also learn advanced safety techniques, such as the Dutch Twist, in which a driver twists their body, using their left hand to open the door to better monitor incoming bikers.
I met two of Blacklane's best drivers, who had been with the company for 13 years and completed over 10,000 trips. They told us stories of guests going above and beyond, including a woman who was late to the airport but asked the driver to stay only in the right, slowest lane. No request is too ridiculous for Blacklane.
On the way back, faithful Ibragim was once again waiting for me outside. I appreciated more the way he gently opened and closed the door for me. I noticed the genuine compliment he gave me on my playlist. There was less traffic on the way back – but I wish there wasn't. I could have stayed in that car all night.