More and more people are ditching the major commercial airlines for alternative means of transportation, particularly cheap charter buses for rent. Especially for regional or group travel, airlines are struggling to compete with motorcoach companies. Not only is it one of the fastest growing forms of transportation in the country (growing 7.5% between 2011 and 2012 alone), but for millions of rural Americans motorcoaches are the only game in town, literally.
But here’s the real reason many people are staying closer to earth: this February, USA Today wrote that commercial airlines were reporting “blowout record profits amid low gas prices, higher fees.” In 2015, U.S. airlines posted $17.9 billion in net income, and that only includes the first three quarters of the year.
Yet despite these record profits, most people are increasingly miserable with the air travel experience. Despite soaring incomes, airlines still seem determined to shrink seat sizes to disturbing new lows. Plus, USA Today also reported that extra fees “have grown, including bag fees that reached $3.5 billion in 2014, the most recent full year available, after a 10-fold increase in the previous decade.”
It’s no wonder that sports teams, schools, and church groups planning trips or tours are instead finding local charter buses for rent. In total, these charter bus services conduct 751,000,000 passenger trips a year, sometimes surpassing airplane passenger trips.
Not only that, but charter bus trips have a healthy effect on both national and local economies. On average charter bus tours, just one motorcoach spending a single night at a destination infuses about $11,600 in meals, lodging, and other expenses.
And when you calculate the cost to taxpayers for different modes of passenger trips, chartering a bus costs taxpayers pennies on the dollar. Per passenger trip, a ride on public transportation costs 77 cents in federal subsidies; Amtrak costs an incredible $46.06 per passenger trip; and commercial airline trips cost $4.32. Charter bus trips cost just six cents.
?It?s a blowout record,? Robert Mann, a former airline executive, told USA Today. ?The individual quarter earnings may exceed any prior year?s earnings, and that?s how good it?s been and how good it will be if oil prices stay low and if customers continue to be willing to pay the fares and fees the industry is charging.?
Of course, as more and more passengers defect to coach bus transportation or rail, that will become a very big “if” in the months to come.