Believe it or Not, Bus Travel is Back

(Photo by Mika Baumeister via Unsplash)
Photo by Clay Banks via Unsplash

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This summer, boarding an Airbus A320 is out. Boarding a regular bus is in.

With extreme weather and logistical challenges sending air travel into disarray, travelers are increasingly turning to an oft-overlooked and folksy alternative: long-distance, inter-city buses.

The Deals on the Bus

It never made front-page news, but, unsurprisingly, the pandemic devastated the bus industry. Up to 40% of small motor coach companies in the US went out of business because of travel restrictions, Peter Pantuso, president of the American Bus Association, told The Wall Street Journal.

Still, those that successfully steered into the skid finally found a wide-open road and — excuse us — literal busloads of eager passengers:

  • Flix North America, the parent company of both FlixBus and the eponymous Greyhound bus lines, said inter-city ridership jumped over 63% year-over-year during the Fourth of July weekend, and 70% year-over-year over Memorial Day weekend. Air travel, meanwhile, only increased by 11% over both holiday weekends, according to Transportation Security Administration data.
  • Meanwhile, bus fare — the mode of transit’s main draw — remains cheap, and has barely risen with inflation. Inter-city bus fares increased by under 2% year-over-year in June, according to travel-booking site Wanderu, and compared to last-minute plane tickets, bus travel remains a cheaper option.

Hail to the Bus Driver: The surge in interest has also challenged some of the more undesirable stereotypes of bus travel — especially given a new wave of start-up bus companies that promise a luxury experience on four-to-six wheels, such as The Jet, which shuttles passengers between New York and Washington, and Napaway, which goes from Nashville to DC, with stops in between. Amenities on inter-city buses now often include fully reclining seats, neck pillows, blankets, frequent snack services — and zero chance of long TSA lines. At the very least, it sure sounds better than flying Spirit.