Sonoma County Airport Express: Supporting the Community and Agriculture
Article and photo by Rachel LaFranchi
Published December 1, 2016
|Tony Geraldi, general manager of Airport Express.|
Sonoma County Airport Express is a fleet of 21 buses shuttling passengers between Sonoma County and San Francisco and Oakland Airports. The company was started in 1980, originally carrying passengers to and from SFO in vans and minibuses. The company expanded to service Oakland Airport in the late 90’s and now has nine trips to OAK every day of the year and an additional 19 to SFO.
They’ve also expanded their business to include servicing cruise ships out of San Francisco and chartering buses including private buses to and from the airport, school trips, corporate meetings and other group activities.
In addition to the company’s revenue stream, a large part of their business is giving back to the community. They donate free trips, individual tickets and make monetary donations to important local causes. Tony Geraldi, the general manager, said they contribute thousands of dollars a year back into the Sonoma County community through in-kind donations.
Geraldi compared their buses to giant billboard advertisements which drive up and down 101 every hour of the day. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on marketing, Geraldi said, the company can invest money supporting Sonoma County non-profits and charities.
Many of the causes supported by the Airport Express are agriculture related. This year, the Airport Express provided buses for five days of tours for Tomorrow’s Leaders Today Agriculture Days which were hosted by the Farm Bureau Foundation of Sonoma County. They also annually provide buses for the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce’s Ag Day. Through these donations, students and professionals are able to see and experience agriculture throughout the county.
“The agriculture industry is important and such a major aspect as to who we are here in Sonoma County,” said Geraldi. “We wouldn’t be the same wonderful place that we are without agriculture, and when you think about agriculture, we need it – Sonoma County is dependent upon the success of the industry.
“Anything we can do to support the future of agriculture in Sonoma County is pretty much a no-brainer.”
Geraldi realizes agriculture is important to the entire Sonoma County economy and affects their business as well. The wineries bring in tourists who need transportation to and from major airports, but Geraldi said the company also transports seasonal vineyard staff during harvest time.
In addition to their in-kind donation of buses, the Airport Express supports the community through various other opportunities including sponsoring the horse racing seminars at the Sonoma County Fair. They are the main sponsor for the Miss Sonoma County Scholarship Organization, which they feel is a program Sonoma County young women are most fortunate to have available to them. They also sponsor school groups and the local chapter of the Special Olympics.
The Airport Express also does their best to support their 63 employees. The business, which has been family owned for the past 36 years by Raymond Neese and Janet and Howard Emigh, has many long term employees. The majority of their drivers stay until retirement.
Geraldi has been with the company for almost 30 years, starting as a part-time bus driver while he was a student at Sonoma State University. He worked his way up in the company, now managing their day to day operations and community outreach. Alongside Geraldi, the company’s most senior drivers have been with them since 1985. Their employees have been with the company an average of 14 years and include father-son and mother-daughter pairs.
The Airport Express carries an average of 800 passengers a day on one of the newest fleets of buses in California. The most recent buses purchased by the company were estimated to cost nearly $625,000 each.
The buses all have names, originally named after cartoon characters and TV personalities. Now the buses are named after the children and grandchildren of the owners’ family, with the exception of one bus named after Geraldi’s late wife, Suzie.
Geraldi said the company’s passengers are a high-quality group of people. Most of the people traveling on the buses are business people, families and people taking a vacation. Additionally, the buses carry flight attendants and pilots as well as close to 60 employees who work at SFO and use the buses to commute.
The buses are also the most environmentally friendly way to get to the airport, Geraldi said. Each bus has the potential of removing 57 vehicles off the road each trip.
Geraldi sees a bright future ahead of the company; people will always need transportation to and from San Francisco and Oakland International Airports. He said although many people have asked how the SMART train will affect business, he doesn’t see it directly affecting them since the commuter rail will only service the North Bay. Additionally, Geraldi doesn’t see the expansion of the Sonoma County Airport as a threat. Instead, Geraldi cited the positive working relationship they have with Alaska Airlines in transporting customers due to missed or canceled flights or weather delays.
Geraldi said, “We both have the same goal of having people traveling in and out of Sonoma County. With that in mind we all benefit.”
For more information visit www.airportexpressinc.com.
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the author and Sonoma County Farm Bureau when reprinting this item.