Peter Pan Bus Lines is reopening June 5 after suspending most of its intercity bus service at the end of March due to travel restrictions meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The extended closure was the first in the family-owned company’s 87-year history. Peter Pan Bus Lines has turned to social media to get the word out that its fleet of buses is safe for travel.
But the messaging has also let passengers know what to expect as they board one of the emerald green motorcoaches.
“For the time being, for your safety, travel may look a bit different. We’ll be social distancing at terminals and asking all passengers to wear masks,” CEO Peter Picknelly explained in a YouTube video, briefly describing the changes designed to protect passengers and employees.
In addition to that video, the company released a roughly three-minute video showing a worker in a protective suit using new fogging equipment to kill viruses. The process, which takes about 15 minutes per bus, will be performed nightly.
“All our coaches have been treated with a sealant that kills all bacteria, germs and viruses upon contact,” said Chris Crean, vice president of safety and security, who also is featured in the video.
When service resumes, Peter Pan Bus Lines will begin with 40 coaches as sanitizing and disinfecting continues for the full fleet.
Killing all viruses
The maintenance team is employing the state-of-the-art Victory electrostatic hand-held sprayer, together with the powerful BruTabS6 sealant, to sanitize and disinfect, killing all viruses in a matter of minutes — including coronavirus. The procedure covers the entire bus, stem to stern.
Additionally, the company has also applying a state of the art sealant, PermaSafe on its vehicles. Approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the sealant has been approved proven to kill viruses, bacteria, germs, and mold on contact and continuously purifies passenger cabin air while making the interior surfaces antimicrobial and self-sanitizing. This nontoxic product also meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s criteria to kill COVID-19, according to the company.
Once underway, the company says it will begin running at least one schedule in each direction on weekdays and two schedules in each direction on weekends.
“This is where we start,” Vice President of Operations Frank Dougherty told Bus & Motorcoach News. “However, we will be ready with additional buses to meet passenger demand as it becomes necessary.”
In addition to the sanitizing and disinfecting processes, protocols are in place for customers’ boarding and social distancing on the coaches.
“First, we are strongly encouraging all of our passengers to wear masks while boarding and traveling on the bus,” Dougherty said. “As the passengers board, the first row of seats will remain empty to offer protection for the driver, and we are encouraging passengers to practice social distancing as best they can throughout the cabin.”
Dougherty said social distancing plans for the terminals Peter Pan Bus Lines operate — especially the larger ones — differ from state to state.
“Most state governors in the Northeast are requiring facial masks,” he says. “As our coaches cross state lines, we will follow their protocols to the letter of the law; and as a general rule, we will adhere to those that are the most restrictive.”
Peter Pan Bus Lines is encouraging passengers to purchase tickets online at peterpanbus.com or via its mobile app. The company has also implemented contact-free boarding that allows passengers to enter the bus without handling a paper ticket. They can even reschedule their itinerary from the mobile app.
“We understand many people are more comfortable with paper and cash,” Dougherty said. “Nonetheless, we made the decision to encourage our customers to use the mobile app and contact-free boarding to keep our customers and drivers safer.”
Like airline boarding, customers can purchase tickets online and present the scanner code on their smartphones.
“Our mobile app has proven very successful as bus passengers have gravitated to this technology,” Dougherty said. “At this time, we are encouraging their paperless bookings all the more.”
The company’s COVID-19 protocols include requiring passengers to wear face masks while boarding, traveling and exiting the motorcoach. All employees have been issued personal protective equipment, including face masks and hand sanitizer.
Owned and operated by the Picknelly family for four generations, the Springfield, Massachusetts, the bus service relies on a workforce of more than 500 employees to operate the business and keep its fleet of 220 coaches on the road. The company serves more than 100 communities throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, and carried nearly 6 million passengers in 2019.
The company said that employees furloughed during the shutdown will be returning to their positions, rejoining those who worked through the shutdown — accountants, customer service representatives and select drivers.
“Some of our maintenance personnel returned to the garages four weeks into the shutdown in mid-April,” said Senior Vice President of Maintenance Tom Picknally. “They helped us carry out our new protocols for sanitizing and disinfecting our fleet.”
Dougherty noted that Peter Pan Bus Lines only furloughed its employees.
“No one was laid off,” he said. “Their health insurance remained intact, and most employees have been able to collect unemployment.”