There’s a lot of curiosity about airlines using luxury motorcoaches for the last leg of some destinations, judging by YouTuber Jeb Brooks’ review of the service. His first-person video about this unconventional travel experience has garnered more than a million views.
During his 10-minute YouTube video, Brooks takes viewers along as he and his wife, Suzanne, travel on an American Airlines’ bus service from Philadelphia to Atlantic City, New Jersey, to see what it’s like.
He gave high marks to his travel in his first-class bus, a Prevost H3-45 passenger coach. Brooks noted that airlines are turning to luxury buses to serve more destinations at a time when they face a shortage of pilots.
“Now that travel has recovered far more quickly than airlines expected, they can’t keep up. You can hire more pilots, but even under the best circumstances, that process takes time. Training them can take months,” said Brooks. “American Airlines has an unconventional solution to that problem, and it’s kind of brilliant. Earlier this year, it started offering bus service between its Philadelphia hub and three smaller cities: Allentown and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Atlantic City, New Jersey.”
Integrated into the experience
American’s offering – which is a partnership with bus operator Landline – is integrated into the overall flight experience. When travelers book their trip, the fare for the bus segment is included in the overall ticket.
Brooks found some passengers were surprised to see a luxury bus show up to their gate in Philadelphia instead of a small plane. Most apparently hadn’t even realized they weren’t taking a flight.
“I’m watching people walk by, and when they walked by the gates their jaws dropped,” he said on the video.
The buses “allow American to serve customers from their home airport without actually having to offer flights,” Brooks notes. “That’s not a small thing — it obviously costs a lot less money to operate a bus than an aircraft. Even small aircraft use far more fuel and crew than a bus.”
He points out that one of the upsides is that buses are a lot less likely to get canceled than flights. American says the buses have Wi-Fi and comfortable leather seats with more room than the average economy-class seat on an airplane.
American isn’t the only airline trying such a service. Last year, United launched a similar service between its Denver hub and two other Colorado cities, Fort Collins and Breckenridge.
Lots to like
Brooks had plenty of good things to say about the motorcoach, which had room for 35 passengers.
“Legroom is far better than you get an economy on a regional jet. The tray tables operation took me by surprise, but that said it does have one huge benefit – you don’t have to wait to reach 10,000 feet. There’s power in each seat along with reading lights and air vents up top, underseat storage for my backpack, and Suzanne’s purse was no problem at all either,” he said.
Getting onto the road was a different experience as well. A pickup truck escorted the bus around on the runways until it reached the gate where it joined the public road.
“Is the bus even popular? Well, yeah, it was nearly full. Of course, almost everyone seemed at least somewhat amused by the experience, and several of the passengers were surprised to find out that they would be boarding a bus, but nearly every seat was taken up,” Brooks said.
More than sum of its star rating
Here’s how he broke down the experience, from 1-5 stars:
Lounge: 0 stars because there wasn’t access to the American Airlines Admirals Club.
Seats: 4 stars. “This seat is great, more comfortable than any economy seat on a regional airplane. However, not being able to preselect a seat in the app is a real downer.”
Food: 0 stars because food wasn’t offered.
In-flight entertainment: 5 stars. “The in-flight entertainment was way more than I’d expected. Plus, it was free.”
Service: 3 stars. “Although there was no cabin service. We really liked our driver. He was great. And his announcement was thorough and useful.”
Total: “So that leaves American Airlines bus service with the lowest ever Jeb score, 12 stars out of possible 25. But there’s a lot more to this service than the score.”
Suzanne also gave the experience good marks. “I think that was a really great service. It’s actually more comfortable than an airplane, I would say. I don’t know if I would want to be on it for multiple hours, at a time but for an hour …”
Brooks says he sees the potential of airlines incorporating more bus travel into their trips.
“The other thing that’s really cool about it is it opens up new gateways for American Airlines. Imagine a radius around major hubs that have cities or places that we might want to visit that you can’t get to easily by plane like Atlantic City.”