On Sun Country, your connection could end up being on a bus

Oct 1, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Are airline passengers willing to consider buses for a seamless one-stop itinerary from smaller markets?

That’s what one start-up company is betting on. A company called Landline wants to connect travelers from small communities around the country to flights at hub airports.

Touting itself as a “regional mobility company” operating “premium motor coaches” — in other words, a bus operator — Landline will launch its first airline partnership with Sun Country Airlines in November. The firm’s buses will connect the leisure carrier’s Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) hub with the Duluth (DLH) and Mankato (MKT) airports in Minnesota.

Landline plans to operate the routes as a regional airline would, a Sun Country Express so-to-speak, just with buses instead of planes, the company’s CEO David Sunde explained to Skift last month.

“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,” he said.

A map of Landline’s current and potential future bus service to Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. (Image courtesy of Landline)


Sun Country will sell tickets for the segments operated by Landline on its website, allowing customers to book an itinerary just as if they were booking one with a connecting flight. Passengers will check in and drop off bags at the Duluth or Mankato airports and then transfer between buses and flights at Minneapolis/St. Paul much as they would if they were flying, except that they will have to clear security at MSP.

“We are excited to partner with Landline to make our low fares and comfortable onboard experience available to more Minnesotans,” Jude Bricker, CEO of Sun Country, said in a statement.

The trip from Duluth to Sun Country’s home in Terminal 2 at Minneapolis/St. Paul airport is 162 miles, and from Mankato is 73 miles, according to Google Maps. Landline schedules the former at up to three hours and 20 minutes, and the latter at up to two hours.

Delta Air Lines flies between Duluth and Minneapolis with flights blocked at roughly one hour and 10 minutes, according to Diio by Cirium schedules.

No carrier has flown between Mankato and Minneapolis since 2004, Diio data shows. According to the Airline Maps blog, former Republic Airlines served the route in 1979 but had dropped the service by 1983. Republic merged with Northwest Airlines in 1986, and Northwest with Delta in 2008.

Bus-airline connections on regional routes are not a new idea. United Airlines offers a bus between its Newark (EWR) hub and Allentown, Pennsylvania, a trip of about 80 miles. AirTran Airways, America West Airlines and Frontier Airlines also have all previously contracted with bus operators to connect their hubs to nearby small communities.

The question remains whether people will take to Landline’s new services. Buses, while an economic way to connect a hub airport with smaller communities, are subject to traffic and other conditions that a flight may be able to avoid.

Airlines have by-and-large gotten out of the bus business. As Skift pointed out, Continental Airlines exited many of its connecting bus routes in the late 1990s with a spokesperson telling The New York Times that the carrier did “not want to be in the bus business.”

“It’s been tried before,” J.P.  Morgan analyst Jamie Baker said recently of the bus-airline connection concept, according to Air Transport World. “It didn’t work.”

What does work are bus operators that serve airports — independent of airlines. For example, there is a robust network of bus routes connecting Boston Logan (BOS) to points in New England, including Cape Cod, New Hampshire and Maine.

Featured image courtesy of Landline.

Vote for TPG UK’s four-class British Airways review in this year’s Lovie Awards!

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.