BACKGROUND: Avis is one of the most recognisable car rental brands in the world, with a history dating back to its origins in the United States in 1946. It is a big player in Southern Africa, with a presence in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. South African parent company Barloworld now operates both the Avis and Budget brands in Southern Africa, after January’s announcement that Bidvest would no longer operate the Budget Car Rental brand in the South African market.
POINT 2 POINT
BOOKING: In South Africa, this service is available in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, with a choice of economy, sedan or MPV vehicles. After making the booking a day in advance, I received a text message a few hours later confirming the booking, as well as an email detailing my pick-up and drop-off details, what group car I would be picked up in, along with my personal details, booking code, terms and conditions, emergency contact details, and price of each trip.
PICK-UP: I was scheduled to be picked up at 08h00 and received a phone call from Avis at 07h53 informing me that my driver was outside my front door. I made my way outside and was greeted by Sipho, my driver, who took my bag and loaded it in the boot. When I took my seat in the back, he asked me whether I wanted warm or cold air on the air-conditioning and also offered me the opportunity to choose a radio station.
THE CAR: Sipho picked me up in a sleek and shiny Jaguar XF sports car, which oozed class and made for a comfortable trip with its plush leather seating. On the back seat were two newspapers – the Citizen and Star. I felt, though, that at least some bottled water would have been a simple and welcome addition.
THE JOURNEY: We were in rush hour, so I was interested to see which route Sipho took to get me to the airport on time. I was impressed, as he calmly negotiated the tricky points and found a back route that saw us arrive at O.R. Tambo International by 08h45, 15 minutes earlier than I had anticipated.
DRIVER: Sipho was friendly and engaged in some conversation about the traffic, without chewing my ear off. Altogether I felt comfortable and at ease, with Sipho clearly well-trained in what sort of attention Point 2 Point customers require.
ARRIVAL: Sipho slipped into an available bay at domestic departures drop-off, was quickly out the car, and by the time I had looked up, he was waiting with my bag from the boot. He wished me a good flight and minutes later I was in the check-in queue.
RETURN TRIP: After a brief wait for my luggage, I walked through the arrivals hall doors at O.R. Tambo International to be met by Philemon, my driver. He shook my hand, grabbed my luggage from me, and walked me to the waiting vehicle – a sparkling new BMW X4 – in the parking garage. 20 minutes after landing, my car trip was under way. On the backseat of the car, two newspapers – a Citizen and a Star – and a small cooler bag with bottled water. Philemon double-checked the destination address with me and explained that he was taking a less conventional route, due to the Friday afternoon Johannesburg traffic. It sounded like a good plan to me, and I settled in the back seat to get some work done. The trip was smooth and uneventful, despite us being delayed by roadworks close to my destination. Philemon, though, remained calm and patient, and promptly delivered me to my destination at 16h25, approximately an hour after picking me up.
VERDICT: Both the Point 2 Point and Chauffeur Drive services were slick and efficient, and are certainly worth considering, particularly if you don’t fancy the Johannesburg traffic. I feel the Point 2 Point service could also offer bottled water, whilst, subject to demand, in-car wi-fi could be something for the future, for the busy exec who can’t afford to be offline for too long.