Airport transfer Blacklane bets on intercity trips to revive COVID-hit business

© Reuters. The logo of German chauffeur service Blacklane is pictured in Berlin

BERLIN (Reuters) – German chauffeur service Blacklane, specialised in airport transfers, is looking to tap into demand for relatively safe intercity travel to grow revenue hit by COVID-19 which also derailed its plans for a 2022 stock market listing.

The startup, which operates in more than 300 cities in 50 countries and saw revenue crumble as the pandemic halted air travel earlier this year, now takes customers from their offices or homes directly to the cities they used to fly to.

“Our bread and butter business was the airport transfer, often at both destinations,” said Chief Executive Jens Wohltorf. “In April, revenues slumped to 1%, and since then we have started to reinvent ourselves, roll up our sleeves and fight our way out.”

Blacklane advertises its intercity rides, which are currently available in Britain and Germany, with a safety promise and fair prices.

“You are alone (in the car), you have the social distance, you know it is much more comfortable,” Wohltorf said.

A one-way trip in a limousine from Berlin to Frankfurt costs from around 50 euros ($59), to Hamburg from around 180 euros and to Munich from around 350 euros. This compares with train ticket prices to Frankfurt, for instance, of 23-200 euros.

Revenue is now back between 30% and 50% of pre-crisis levels depending on the cities, the group, which had initially planned to break even this year, said.

It will take time to reach last year’s revenue of around 100 million euros, but the company still hopes for fresh money from investors and a future stock market listing.

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