Landline — the regional airline that never leaves the ground — has one really big hurdle that it needs to overcome. It needs to convince people that it is not just another bus operator. Previous partnerships with Sun Country and United have showcased some of the opportunities it has, but now there’s a new partnership with American that shows what really differentiates this service.
Starting on June 3, Landline will operate buses for American in American’s livery — but without the ugly flag tail — connecting the Philadelphia hub with both Atlantic City and Allentown/Bethlehem. These are two different types of markets which will be a good test for the new partners.
American doesn’t fly to Atlantic City at all; that’s the sole domain of Spirit Airlines since it is a very low fare market. (JetBlue seems excited to get in there when it buys Spirit, but I don’t know why.) This is about expanding American’s presence to those in Atlantic City who might otherwise drive to another airport if Spirit can’t get them there. It also makes Atlantic City a new destination for all that inbound longer-distance traffic that… probably no longer exists. It should be about an hour on the road with no traffic.
On the other hand, American does fly to Allentown from both Charlotte (3x daily) and Chicago/O’Hare (2x daily). It used to fly 3-4x daily to Philly until the pandemic began. The last flight on that route departed May 1, 2020 and there was no plan to return with an airplane, especially once the pilot shortage hit.
American already has the ability to get people west and south via airplane, but for those who want to go around the northeast or to Europe in particular, American is not a great option unless people want to drive themselves. Now with this service, American can add more value and try to gain better loyalty in the local community.
This all sounds fine, but how many times have we seen bus service before? There are buses all over the place, and it’s not particularly appealing because of the disjointed nature of the bus ride from the airline ticket.
Landline first changed this with Sun Country when that partnership began. With a ticket sold on Sun Country, Landline would market its rides with a flight number that would be sold as part of the ticket. If you were late arriving on your bus because of an accident, it would be like arriving late on a regional jet. Sun Country would still have to get you to the destination or refund you, or whatever they require. That was a first good step forward.
With United, that arrangement was similar with “flights” on buses to both Fort Collins and Breckenridge. The flight in was great. You’d arrive on an airplane in Denver and then go to a different gate where you’d board your Landline bus. It was seamless. But the return, not so much. There was still the issue of security. That has now been solved with this American agreement.
Travelers who leave from Atlantic City or Allentown will go to the airport, check their bags, and go through security. There, they will board their bus and be taken airside in Philly where they will get off at a gate and walk right over to their connecting flight as if they’d walked off a regional jet. I don’t know how this works exactly, but it’s probably something like this.
This is a big deal, because not only does it make this just like a regional jet in all respects except that it just has a really long taxi time and never gets airborne — we hope — but it also shows TSA’s willingness to make meaningful changes to allow this kind of operation to happen from a security perspective.
This should be easy since it’s going from one airport to another and there is already a security checkpoint anyway, but Landline has much bigger plans.
Future Landline services, with regulatory approval, will connect industrial parks, corporate campuses, cruise ports, and other convenient locations.
The opportunities are endless, though it requires TSA willingness and funding. But imagine going to a conference at a big convention center and going through security and boarding a bus right there to make your connection. You could spend more time working and less time standing in line. Or a cruise? Maybe you wouldn’t always have to schedule that flight home after noon anymore. This could even help cruise lines to do a better job getting their passengers off the ship, staggering times to smooth the demand flow.
This first step is the biggest, because it establishes that functional partnership with TSA. It’s hopefully going to open up all kinds of opportunity. Now, when will we get a bus from Long Beach to LAX? If I can clear security in Long Beach, it would make for a very compelling offer.