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Langley’s Coaches fuelled by family

There are plenty of families that are happy to enjoy some time apart. The Langley family isn’t one. Instead, they decided to work together each day at the helm of a thriving coach touring operator in Dubbo, NSW

It was a gloomy day when the royals arrived. On the tarmac at the regional Dubbo Airport in New South Wales, Sarah Hansen braves the wet and bleak conditions, her headset on and an extra two way communication network established to ensure the day went smoothly.

Inside the airport, Sarah’s father Phil, also the founder and joint managing director of family operator Langley’s Coaches, sits in a secure area, tracking a combination of jets that are quickly descending upon Dubbo, cutting through the dense clouds.

It was a day the Langley family had been waiting for throughout 2018. It all went quickly. The jets landed, and out stepped Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as they began their high-profile Australian tour. After meeting hundreds of people on the slippery runway at Dubbo, the pair headed into a motorcade of vehicles to begin their trip of the regional NSW town.

In the front seat of a vehicle in the motorcade was Phil, living a moment he and the entire Langley’s Coaches crew would never forget.

“My daughter Sarah convinced me that this was a moment I didn’t want to miss, and boy, was she right,” Phil says.

While the royal visit of 2018 to Dubbo was a milestone moment in the history of the NSW town, it was also a seminal moment for Langley’s Coaches.

The history of the family operator spans all the way back to 1977 when Phil Langley first got involved in coach travelling and touring. In the years that followed, he held management positions in Deluxe Coachlines and Australia Wide Coaches while also being formally trained in tour operations by Australian Pacific Tours.

“Ever since I was a young lad in Holbrook, I would watch the Pioneer Coaches travel past my school and I would tell anyone who would listen that I was going to drive them one day,” Phil told ABC.

After getting a start at various companies, Phil’s life became additionally intertwined with coach touring. When at the wheel of a tour around the Whitsundays, Phil met passenger Fiona. The two realised they had plenty in common – when Phil disembarked with the passengers and sailed around the islands with them for a week, the pair got to know each other. The rest is history.

“As a coach driver at heart, Phil’s proposal was as romantic as you’d expect,” Fiona Langley told ABC.

“We were waiting for a coach to come in and he turned to me and asked if I’d ever think of marrying him. I told him he should just ask. He did, and that was it.”

At the time, Fiona was a registered nurse. In no time, the touring life chose her and the pair planned their shared future together. Starting with one small coach, Langley’s Coaches officially became an integral part of the Dubbo community.

The small operator opened its first dedicated office in Depot Road in a space attached to its shed. After outgrowing the first block, the couple bought a second, before having to relocate to Jannali Road, where Langley’s still proudly resides to this day. Featuring an office, departure lounge, purpose-built workshop, wash-bay and coach parking bays, it signals the incredible rise of a family company that is still in touch with its roots.

Image: Langley’s Coaches

“My first memories of buses and coaches was being at the zoo every weekend while mum and dad ran zoo tours,” Sarah told ABC.

“They then began doing school runs for disabled children for many years and expanded into other school runs, before buying touring runs from other companies to continue growing.”

Alongside the trio, Sarah’s brother Michael Langley is the operator’s fleet manager. Sarah remembers her and Michael being taught as children how to wash buses after they came back from tours. Despite this upbringing, neither sibling was forced into working for the family business. Instead, Sarah moved to Sydney to work as a nurse before realising her calling and deciding on her own to come back and work at Langley’s.

“Both Michael and Sarah came into the business on their own free will – we think it’s really important that we didn’t coerce them into doing so,” Fiona says.

“We all have dinner together one night per week and we have a rule that there’s no work talk – we stick to it most times.”

These simple rules have allowed the family to shine in recent years. Langley’s Coaches currently has 18 school runs and around 70 vehicles in its fleet, organised and driven by roughly 40 employees. Work differs from school transfers to the high-profile movement that Langley’s helped organise when it was asked to transport the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2018.

For years, the only peace and quiet the Langley family could get away from their business was to take a flight out to Norfolk Island. With no phone signals available, only then could members of the Dubbo tour company unwind. Instead of relishing this haven, the Langley family decided to extend their work into their favourite holiday destination.

“We knew the owner of Pinetree Tours, the charter company running buses on Norfolk Island,” Sarah says.

“When we heard the owner wanted to sell, we decided as a family to take on the business. Ten days later, COVID hit and the whole island was shut down.”

Despite this initial speedbump, the Langley family has now established operations on the island to run Pinetree Tours alongside Langley’s Coaches. Sarah says the operator keeps in touch with the independent team on Norfolk Island via Microsoft Teams, while the Langley family often flies to the island every few months to help run the business.

“We’ve taken tour groups over there for the past 15 years and it’s still one of our more popular tours, so we’ve now been able to run it smoother with Pinetree Tours,” Sarah says.

When it comes to finding new tour options, Langley’s Coaches is meticulous. Before it becomes part of Langley’s services, the family travels along the route, seeing if it’s feasible and an enjoyable trip for customers to take.

While at it, Langley’s is also consciously heading towards ultimate luxury touring, with its 20-seat full size coach allowing it to plan for a stylish future.

It’ll continue doing these services in the future as Langley’s always remains open to taking people around the many tours that Australia and the wider world has on offer. While doing so, the family knows that it’s cultivating something special as a family operator that continues to excel in the local operator environment.

“I feel so proud of what my parents have done. They don’t like being the centre of attention, but they’ve done such a big thing for so many people,” Sarah says.

“Our slogan is ‘your smile is our reward’, and the company has made people so happy. All of the hard work is paying off.”

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