- American Airlines is launching a new bus service on June 3 to connect small markets to its Philadelphia hub.
- The airline previously had two cities in its bus network, but just added a third — Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
- Lancaster is an Essential Air Service city and currently has jet service from Southern Airways Express.
Starting August 16, passengers traveling on American Airlines between Philadelphia International Airport and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, can take a dedicated shuttle bus instead of driving themselves. Lancaster joins Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, as part of American’s bus network, with the two latter cities set to launch on June 3.
The American-branded bus is operated by Landline, a transport startup that focuses on connecting travelers in small communities to hub airports. It launched its first airline partnership in 2019 with Sun Country Airlines, shuttling passengers between Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport and Duluth and Mankato airports in Minnesota.
“Customers can start and end their journey at Lancaster Airport, relax on a comfortable Landline vehicle, and leave the driving to someone else while they work or start their vacation early.” American vice president of network planning Brian Znotins said, per local news station FOX43. “From road to runway, we’re excited to welcome customers on board.”
The journey is meant to replicate the flying experience, according to American’s website. This means that passengers will check bags and go through security at the Lancaster, Allentown, and Atlantic City airports before boarding the bus.
Once in Philadelphia, passengers will be dropped off past security where they can go straight to their connecting gate, while their luggage will be automatically transferred to the plane.
When traveling from Philadelphia to one of the three cities, travelers will still have their bags transferred from the plane and will meet the bus at a dedicated pick-up spot at the airport.
The new bus routes are a cheaper alternative to regional flying, Landline CEO David Sunde told NPR, saying “the airline saves money on the cost of jet fuel and staffing the flight with two pilots and one or two flight attendants.”
United, American, and Delta have dropped several cities in recent months, citing low demand, high costs, and unprofitability as driving factors. The pilot shortage has also exacerbated the problem, with United grounding 100 regional planes because it doesn’t have enough pilots to fly them.
American’s managing director for global network planning, Jason Reisinger, told NPR that despite the current challenges in operating regional routes, Landline is not intended to replace any flying.
“We really see Landline not as a replacement of flights but more of allowing us to connect places that we just aren’t going to fly,” he said.
Meanwhile, an American spokesperson told Insider that the bus routes “aren’t related to pilot staffing.”
While airlines do not have a responsibility to serve unsustainable markets, the federal government has established the Essential Air Service (EAS) program to ensure certain small airports maintain their air link to the rest of the US. This means airlines will be subsidized to fly to cities on the official list.
Lancaster Airport is one of those markets. Currently, Southern Airways Express has a contract to fly to Lancaster, according to The Points Guy, and American would not be eligible to apply until 2026. The airline has not served Lancaster since May 2020, according to Cirium data; however, it is unknown if the government would approve subsidies for a landline bus service over a jet.
American and Sun Country are not the only carriers to partner with Landline. United has also started service between Denver and Breckenridge and Fort Collins in Colorado, which also mirror a regular flight.