The Bus Company That’s Replacing Your Regional Plane

by Chris Dong

Airlines are always evaluating whether to shed service to smaller cities that are deemed unprofitable. Small towns are always on edge since they rely on air travel to stay relevant — and to stay on the map. Airlines help stimulate a town’s economic growth.

When an airline decides to cut service — usually eliminating a regional jet to a hub city — that community greatly suffers. In the past four years alone, 31 cities have lost air service. Well, what if an airline didn’t have to decide whether to completely cut service by eliminating a plane?

Landline Bus Company…Or Regional Jet?

A new bus startup named Landline wants to replace the concept of regional jets for shorter distances. The company has inked its first agreement with an airline to essentially be that airline’s regional “jet” provider.

Landline’s first partner is Minneapolis-based low cost carrier Sun Country Airlines. Landline intends to shuttle passengers between some of the smallest cities to nearby airports on behalf of airlines, the first being Sun Country.

landline bus

Passengers will be able to purchase tickets directly through Sun Country, and the Landline bus ticket along with air will be included. While booking separate flight and bus is nothing new, the benefit here is that connections are guaranteed and bags are checked through, along with the other things that a connecting flight normally would entail.

The process is seamless as well. While bookings can be done on Sun Country’s website, I would assume this would also appear on channels like Google Flights.

Where Is Landline Bus & Sun Country Operating? 

For now, the first two cities that Landline and Sun Country will operate are the towns of Duluth and Mankato in Minnesota, with service to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP). Codeshare service begins in November. However, it is already possible to book low cost bus tickets to and from MSP for any airline — it’s just that your flight connection isn’t guaranteed.

Once Sun Country connections begin in November, Landline will still sell tickets on that bus for connecting passengers with other airlines.

Other Bus And Air Connections 

Instead of United Express, the airline partners with a bus company between Allentown and Newark.

Currently, United Airlines has the only bus and air connection operating in the U.S. with a bus providing service between Allentown, PA and Newark International Airport (EWR). Elsewhere, Lufthansa still has a handful of bus to flight routes within Germany.

If you live in a smaller town with expensive regional jet service (or no air service at all), it can make a lot of sense to book your own bus connection to a larger airport. Often, fares will be lower originating from a bigger city.

As a real world example, another US-based bus startup called OurBus provides service between Fort Myers and Fort Lauderdale International Airport (FLL). If the timing works out for your flight schedule, a $27 bus could prove to be a huge cost savings compared to flying from Fort Myers’ Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW).

The Upshot

Now, airline executives have another option instead of having no air service to a small city at all. A lower cost bus alternative to a major airport should be a no brainer for many communities.

Additionally, regional jets are some of the least efficient types of airplanes, and airlines could try to use buses to improve their environmental sustainability.

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