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In The Driver’s Seat With… Cliff York from Albatross Transfers

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Last Updated on August 14, 2018

In our Meet & Greet series, we meet the people behind some of the amazing transfer companies working with Here Cliff York, who runs Albatross Transfers in the Australian city of Brisbane, talks about his love of transport, his passion for the job and how he manages the perfect work-life balance.

From getting his pilot’s licence at age 16 and then enduring a mechanical failure when flying a vintage WW2 aircraft solo, to driving big rigs all across Australia, and now working in the airport transfer industry, it’s fair to say that Cliff York, who runs Albatross Transfers in the Australian city of Brisbane (and surrounding areas), has a love for transport.

‘I’ve been involved in transportation in many forms for much of my life! I hate working indoors,’ Cliff explains.

‘Some of my earliest memories are of steering my dad’s ute across the paddock when I was just three years old, as he fed the sheep on the farm with hay or grain off the back of the ute. Then, when I could reach the pedals, Dad set me going around the paddocks with a tractor – cultivating, seeding and then ultimately reaping the crops.

Cliff rents his vehicle so that his customers can enjoy a sparkling brand new vehicle each time they travel

‘I started working in the rideshare industry in October 2014, after spending more than three years driving freight trucks all across Australia. I love driving, and would often take my wife on the journeys with me; we’d travel as far as Perth in Western Australia, Launceston in Tasmania and as far north as Darwin in the Northern Territory. I’d drive around 250,000 kilometres each year!

‘After driving trucks, I thought I’d try my hand at Uber. However, I was told that creating a database of regular clients was the best way to go in this industry; I’d previously worked in Network Marketing, so I knew how to create databases. So my stint with Uber ultimately transformed into the transfer business I run today.

‘Then in 2016, my brother got married. The theme for the wedding was albatross birds, and since my wife is an artist, our gift to them was a painting by my wife of two albatrosses in flight over a stormy ocean.

‘When we returned from the wedding, my wife asked me what I was planning to call my fledgling transfer business. I’d started to build up a steady clientele and needed a name for the company, and I’d remembered a friend of mine who worked in advertising suggested a business is often best named after an animal or bird. I’m constantly driving my clients to the airport where they fly away on a “big winged bird”, and so, “Albatross Transfers” took flight.’

Cliff works around Brisbane and the surrounding areas on the Australian east coast, where there’s no shortage of exciting things to do.

‘When people travel in my car, I like to recommend places they should make time to see. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is great for international guests and is only 20 minutes from Brisbane city centre. In town, South Bank, the Roma Street Parklands and the City Botanical Gardens are within easy walking distance, and of course a trip on the Brisbane River catamarans is a must! The Gold Coast is popular, and we recommend many wineries in the area.

‘Albatross Transfers also conducts tours; we visit various zoos, like the famous Australia Zoo, and also the gorgeous Hinterland that makes up part of this beautiful state of Queensland.’

And his clientele are ever-grateful for his recommendations and local insights.

‘One particular booking involved Thai Airways flight staff who had arrived after a long flight from Singapore. They had asked if there were any local wine tours. I said that I could show them some of the best wineries, and spent the most delightful Saturday with them, touring around the beautiful Gold Coast hinterland, right down to Mt Tamborine, visiting the famous Glowworm caves, while of course stopping by some fantastic local wineries. They had a lovely time, and it was my pleasure to show them the sights, tastes and sounds.’

Cliff’s local knowledge and recommendations take visitors to gorgeous places like Mt Tamborine, in the Gold Coast Hinterland

Cliff knows that great customer service is essential to running a successful business, especially in the travel and transport industry, so he’s got a few tips and tricks up his sleeve to ensure he’s delivering a great service that stands out.

‘Customer service is paramount for our business, as customers today are very discerning and will have little hesitation moving to a more reliable supplier if such a need arises.’

Cliff is confident in his points of difference to ensure a fantastic customer experience.

‘I rent my car, rather than own it outright, which ensures I am always driving an almost-new vehicle that is bright and sparkling clean. I love driving the Kia Carnival, which allows me to transport up to seven passengers with plenty of room for luggage. It’s perfect for groups and travelling families.

‘My vehicle allows passengers to connect to WiFi should they need it, and I’ve always got a supply of phone charging cords for people to use.’

But Cliff says there’s one vital element to ensure customer satisfaction.

‘One of the major features my clients comment on frequently is our attention and commitment to punctuality, which is very important,  especially when going to and from the airport.

‘I’ve also developed a transparent system of communication with my customers, which allows me to confirm bookings and keep up with who is wanting to travel where and at what time.’

He also says that the ability to pre-book an airport transfer, rather than relying on an on-demand service, has so many benefits.

‘I believe it’s very important to pre-book any transfer, as this allows the traveller to know for sure that a car suitable for their requirements will be available at the time they have requested.’

But with a big family including four grandchildren and fourteen step-grandchildren, how does Cliff balance work and life to enjoy the best of both worlds?

‘I don’t actually have any staff – it’s just me! I am fortunate however to be part of a magnificent group of fellow rideshare operators who all work together as part of a caring network where we help each other out with overflow bookings. We’re all connected with an app, which allows us to see where the other drivers in the network are at any time, so we can appropriately contact other drivers if the need arises.

‘Each of these operators share a common enthusiasm and work ethic, and we have all pledged to “support without poaching”, which means that we can confidently allow another operator to occasionally transfer our clients and they feel comfortable asking for the same favour whenever the need arises. It’s a great, trusting network.’

Of course, it’s not all work and no play for Cliff, who has a myriad of hobbies that keep him busy in his down time.

‘When not behind the wheel, I really enjoy my gardening. I have a large raised vegetable garden and a 1,800-litre Aquaponics system that houses 65 Barcoo Grunter fish (Jade Perch), which provides the nutrients for the herb garden that sits atop the fish tanks.’

The 61 year old also loves planes – and the love for flying started at an early age, when Cliff’s father bought an old WW2 vintage aircraft when he was just 10 years old.

Cliff’s love of flying stemmed from his Dad purchasing a vintage plane. Pictured: Cliff York

‘I grew up just north of a rural community known as Wongan Hills in Western Australia – it’s about 190 kilometres north of Perth and is situated in the Central Wheatbelt of Western Australia. I loved flying with my dad between his farms, and by the time I left school at the age of 15, I was fully set on learning to fly.’

‘Twenty-two years later, while flying this same aircraft, the motor suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure while I was piloting it solo at 2,000 feet over outback Western Australia. There was a massive bang and the propeller stopped spinning in just one revolution, and whoops, I was abruptly a glider!

‘I managed to successfully land the aircraft with no power and luckily walked away totally unscathed!’

While he spends his time with both feet on the ground these days, Cliff is passing on his love of flying to his family.

‘I also fly model aeroplanes as a hobby, and I love spending time with my step-grandkids – teaching them to fly kites is a favourite.’

As for the future of transport and transfers, Cliff doesn’t think technology like driverless cars will affect the Australian market too much.

‘I believe driverless cars are going to be a feature of the future, however, the tyranny of distance here in Australia will probably see driverless vehicles have a limited impact on my business – in my lifetime at least. Plus, I’d like to see a driverless car do a meet and greet at the airport!’

And for those just starting out in the transport and rideshare industry, Cliff passes on these words of advice:

‘It’s a competitive industry. Find a network of other drivers to share the load with, as it’s not possible to service this industry 24/7 yourself. Find a niche market and develop that, and most importantly provide awesome, punctual service and enjoy the rewards of serving the needs of others.’

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