“Welcome aboard American Airlines to Atlantic City. We’ll be traveling at an average speed of 55 miles an hour at an altitude of 18 inches above the pavement.”
It’s come to this.
Pilot shortages and fuel costs have put some American Airlines “flights” on the ground with service being provided by bus, according to Airline Weekly.
Some of it stems from the missteps in dealing with the pandemic. But there’s more.
Buses might go beyond being a temporary solution; in fact, there could be some solid logic behind them. And, as seen with Amtrak, some freight carriage and plane-train connections in Europe, it’s not a new idea.
Airline Weekly reported Thursday that American has contracted with Colorado-based Landline to provide bus connections beginning June 3 between its hub in Philadelphia and Allentown, Pennsylvania, a distance of 70 miles.
Landline buses also will allow American to begin service to Atlantic City, New Jersey, 56 miles from Philadelphia.
It’s “one more way” for Philadelphia-bound travelers to make connections, according to Brian Znotin, American’s vice president of network planning.
The buses will be painted to identify them with American Airlines.
— Jon Ostrower (@jonostrower) April 7, 2022
The airline will sell tickets identifying the bus trips as “flights,” and there will be baggage transfers similar to what occurs between aircraft.
Landline’s service is not the first venture in planes-without-wings travel. It’s running highway connections for United Airlines out of Denver, according to The Denver Post, and it services seven cities in Minnesota and Wisconsin for Sun Country Airlines.
No they’re just buses. And I can’t imagine why anyone would want to endure the hassle of an airport just to take a bus. https://t.co/CTelOFHGcL
— Dr. Matt Walsh, Women’s Studies Scholar (@MattWalshBlog) April 7, 2022
It’s a modification of a long-established European practice of connecting trains on-site at airports, as offered in Paris by Air France and in Frankfurt, Germany, by Lufthansa.
Ground transport makes sense in the short haul. As it grew, FedEx moved from aircraft exchanging freight at its Memphis, Tennessee, hub to some direct city-to-city truck service for shorter traffic lanes.
Amtrak has long offered connecting bus services to its trains.
It takes a lot of energy to get an aircraft into the air, and it requires a long flight to realize the fuel efficiencies of cruise altitude and descent to the plane’s destination.
“If you’re flying less than 200 miles into your hub, a multi-modal connection is really efficient,” said David Sunde, Landline’s founder and CEO, according to Airline Weekly.
He also said his buses can “reduce the carbon emission of a regional flight by 80 or 90 percent today.”
Launched in 2019, Landline suffered a setback when COVID-19 crippled transportation. But now it’s at an advantage as airlines have a shortage of pilots and are wrestling with increasing fuel costs stemming from the Biden administration’s war on fossil fuels.
The pilot shortage has especially hit regional carriers such as American Eagle and Delta Connection, according to Skift.
The regionals are like farm teams for the major airlines. They lost a lot of their pilots to the majors, which needed to replace those driven by the pandemic into retirement or voluntary departure.
Vaccine mandates caused a rift between vaccinated and unvaccinated pilots at United, according to Bloomberg, and pilot pushback against Southwest vaccine mandates apparently caused the cancellation of a thousand flights, which the company blamed on air traffic control and weather, Forbes said.
But with a lack of pilots and the cost of fuel putting more flights on the ground, Landline, with the pandemic behind it, seems to be smiling.
Venture Capital firm Drive Capital has just invested $28 million in the company, according to Airline Weekly. Can expansion be far behind?
So there’s a good chance a flight in your future might be on a bus.
“There may be some turbulence as there are a few potholes along the route. And there may be some delay due to construction zones. In the meantime, sit back, relax and enjoy your trip on American Airlines.”