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Can Buses Replace Short Haul Flights?

Can Buses Replace Short Haul Flights?
Jennifer Billock

After you buy a flight, what would you do if you found out the final leg of your trip—which could potentially be a short regional flight—is actually going to be a bus ride instead of on a plane? That’s the idea for a new startup looking to replace short regional flights with buses instead of planes.

The flight from Chicago to Milwaukee is only 17 minutes. Yet if you’re flying through to Milwaukee from an international or longer domestic flight, you often need to make that connection. But if a new startup has its way, that flight will soon be replaced by a bus ride.

Landline, a new business started by former Alaska Airlines network planners Ben Munson and David Sunde, is hoping to eliminate those super short regional flights by placing passengers on a bus instead to get to their next airport. They expect to have the service running for routes ranging from 50 to 250 miles.

The genesis of the idea came from the knowledge that short regional carriers have trouble attracting pilots and end up retiring their smallest jets—which cuts off service between smaller communities and bigger airline hubs.

“The genesis of the idea was, with consolidation and the pilot shortage and the lack of really any aircraft development in the sub-60-seat sector, there is not a proper way to source this mission if you are in an airline,” Sunde told Skift.

The company is intended to be thought of as a regional airline that just uses buses instead of planes.

“When you spend time in the regional airline business, you start to learn how challenging it is to make money with small aircraft,” Sunde told Skift. “The cost structure of the bus is really unbeatable. No one had ever approached it like running an airline before.”


[Featured Image: Landline]

View Comments (19)


  1. DeltaFlyer123

    October 4, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    This reminds me, ages ago, my father came to visit me in Vancouver from Toronto, and while in Vancouver, the Canadian airport ground handlers went on strike so we were concerned about his return flight, Well, good old Air Canada had it all figured out – they flow their L-1011’s between Seattle and Buffalo, and chartered buses at both ends. So he checked in at YVR at the bus, all baggage transfers were handled by the airline in SEA and BUF, and he retrieved his bags at YYZ. Their flights to Montreal flew to Burlington, VT.

  2. GrayAnderson

    October 4, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    The Air Canada situation is curious…wouldn’t that have violated cabotage? (Obviously this was a LONG time ago, but that also seems to invite passport misbehavior…)

  3. GrayAnderson

    October 4, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    Also, forcing bus legs sounds like a *great* way to turn this into Hidden City Hell for the airlines unless they’re doing transfers within the secure area. There are a few cases where they might be able to play this to their advantage (if they can arrange for remotely checking in bags and/or if they’re offering a guaranteed connection to/from downtown).

  4. FlyingNone

    October 4, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    I couldn’t think of a worse idea. What happens when there are bad weather road conditions, accidents along the way, bus breakdowns etc ? Nothing more appealing than coming off a 10-12 hour flight and getting on a bus to ride 1-2 hours more.

  5. Dublin_rfk

    October 4, 2019 at 10:22 pm

    Short haul on a bus? Yeah right! I’ll hire a donkey or two and take my time. Let’s see what’s not right here. Drive / transport to pickup place, skipping over the normal transactions at the airport, wait for scheduled departure time, arrive eventually, skip over the usual post flight steps, rent a car and drive to customer. Add to that there are fewer seats on current buses and the last time I heard the on board service was lacking.

  6. Voldoo

    October 5, 2019 at 4:39 am

    That’s awesome

  7. dliesse

    October 5, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    Not to mention the fact that most buses have even less legroom than a typical high-density layout in the back of the plane!

  8. dx3003

    October 6, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    Why not put them on Amtrak?

  9. dvs7310

    October 7, 2019 at 12:17 am

    The flaw in their idea is that a lot of places with these super short flights also have traffic problems.

    Sadly United got rid of all of the super short flights from LAX, but those used to be awesome back in the day. Nothing like the joy of trying to drive from LAX to Oxnard on a Friday evening.

  10. fotographer

    October 7, 2019 at 3:28 am

    does the bus have first class

  11. chrisfwm

    October 8, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    I will take it, if they drop the price by 50%.

  12. Patrick Le Floch

    October 9, 2019 at 5:54 am

    Bus are a great alternative to flying for short hauls when you take into account ingress and egress into an airport’s gate (add 1-2hrs to the schedule time). That said, most busses have super tight seat spacing making the trip unbearable. Fortunately some bus manufacturers are getting smart and offering 3 seats abreast setup or even slide-to-the-side seats so passengers can enjoy more elbow room.

  13. ashill

    October 9, 2019 at 8:03 am

    The Milwaukee example is apt. Both Milwaukee and Madison have excellent, frequent bus service to O’Hare. The bus service is far more reliable than the regional jets that serve those routes (on both AA and UA); in fact, in snow, AA and UA would routinely charter a bus because the bus could reliably get to O’Hare but the flights couldn’t. I once had six inches of snow fall while the bus was driving to O’Hare, and it got there right on time (and then I had to wait six hours for a heavily-delayed flight due to the snow). And while the bus isn’t comfortable, it’s more comfortable than the ERJs that fly that route (or at least did when MSN-ORD began and ended pretty much every trip for me from 2005-2011, except when I took the bus instead). And yes, the wheels up to wheels down time is only 17-25 minutes, but you’re in the seat for an hour counting boarding before departure and taxiing on both ends. Whereas the bus drive time is 2.5 hours, but that’s *all* the time you spend on the bus.

  14. KRSW

    October 9, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    United used to (still does?) have this as an option for ABE airport. They fly you into EWR then bus you through the rest of it.

    My take? No thanks. If I’m paying an airline to fly, I want to fly. If I wanted to take a Greyhound, I’d book Greyhound. Granted, this is United we are talking about, so you might actually get treated better on a Greyhound bus.

  15. alangore


    October 10, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    Living in a small town has numerous advantages, EXCEPT when it comes to air travel. I would rather take a Landline bus when my comfy long-haul flight arrives Major City rather than having to find Gate X-256 to connect to my one-hour hop home on a puddle jumper with my knees in my face and my rollaboard stowed in the toilet.

  16. hyho61

    October 14, 2019 at 7:44 am

    Upto 100 to 120 miles buses are a good alternative (max 2 hours). More than that better off on a plane.

  17. zarkov505

    October 14, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    A lot depends on the bus. If it is a NEW bus line, operated like an airline, operated from a proper terminal, maybe.

    If it is the existing bus lines, just “code-shared” with the new groundbound “airline”, NO WAY. I did a few bus rides, between Austin TX and College Station TX, when I was a lot younger. NEVER AGAIN.

  18. KayVeeBee

    October 15, 2019 at 7:47 am

    This is rather common in Europe, except for the use of trains in stead of buses…

  19. Annalisa12


    October 15, 2019 at 5:37 pm


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