It’s a bird, it’s a plane… it’s a bus! Nearly half of the travelers on my recent “flight” from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Atlantic City, New Jersey were surprised to discover that American Airlines flight number AA6354 would be operated not by a small regional jet, but a modern Prevost motor coach. I knew, of course, as the purpose of my trip was to test out this relatively new service that is a partnership between American Airlines and The Landline Company — it would be, I hoped, my first chance to experience flight seated in my own power wheelchair.
American Airlines Bus Fares to Atlantic City
The itinerary I purchased — Boston to Philadelphia by airplane, and Philadelphia to Atlantic City by luxury bus — is priced anywhere from $89 to $618 one-way over the course of the next month, however most fares fall within the range of $104 to $277, depending on how far in advance you book. Note that this bus service is targeted at connecting airline passengers — purchasing a ticket only on the bus from Philadelphia to Atlantic City or vice versa, is priced at $402 each way. If you’re only traveling between these two cities, riding on the NJ Transit rail service would be a better choice and much less expensive.
I purchased two one-way tickets, Boston to Atlantic City and reverse, using frequent flyer miles. The cost was 7,500 miles each way in economy class. A first class fare is available, however you should note that the bus is a single-class service. Forking over hundreds more dollars (or 10,000 extra miles) to upgrade the 90-minute flight from Boston to Philly probably isn’t worth it.
Destinations Served by the American Airlines Connecting Bus Service
This unique bus-as-flight offering operates between Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) and three nearby airports: Atlantic City International Airport (ACY), Lancaster Airport (LNS), and Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE). The process works slightly differently depending on where you are departing from.
- Atlantic City International Airport (ACY) — Departing passengers will clear security at ACY and be transported to an airside gate at PHL. Arriving passengers will be dropped off at the airport terminal curb at ACY.
- Lancaster Airport (LNS) — Departing passengers will NOT clear security at LNS, and will be transported to the landside curb at PHL, where they will need to clear security before departing on a connecting flight. Arriving passengers will be dropped off at the airport terminal curb at LNS.
- Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE) — Departing passengers will clear security at ABE and be transported to an airside gate at PHL. Arriving passengers will be dropped off at the airport terminal curb at ABE.
- Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) — All American Airlines bus departures from PHL are from the airside gate F8, meaning passengers whose travel originates at PHL will be required to clear security there.
Wheelchair Accessibility of the American Airlines + Landline Luxury Bus
Access to the Landline bus is provided by a Ricon-branded wheelchair lift located between the midpoint and rear of the motor coach. The lift is similar to those used by Greyhound Lines and other over the road bus operators, however this bus is no Greyhound bus — it’s much more luxurious than that.
Seats are arranged in a 2-1 configuration, with two seats on the left side of the aisle and one seat on the right. The wheelchair space occupies what is effectively seat 8F on the side with the single seat. Two seats are pushed forward reveal the securement space, which features four straps to secure the wheelchair from front and back.
When I initially presented myself at the gate in Philadelphia, American Airlines gate agents informed me that the lift’s weight limit was 400 pounds and that, if I wanted to sit in my wheelchair, it would have to go up separately from me. That didn’t seem right, as the ADA requirements for wheelchair lifts on over the road buses states that “the design load of the lift shall be at least 600 pounds.” The bus operator set things straight and I boarded without incident — I also researched the Ricon lift, model number F9TF-DE004, which the manufacturer states “provides a maximum platform lifting capacity of 660 pounds (300 kilograms).” Problem solved!
The bus includes a number of amenities, including two power outlets next to the wheelchair space, an adjustable shade by the window, a call button and a reading light switch. Though there are no air vents directly above the wheelchair space, vents in front of and behind the space can be adjusted.
Ambulatory and semi-ambulatory passengers can enjoy the comfortable leather seats and access to a bathroom at the rear of the motor coach. Even for passengers not bringing a wheelchair of their own but who have difficulty navigating steps, the wheelchair lift can be used to access the passenger cabin. American Airlines staff at Atlantic City Airport told me that although only two full-time wheelchair users had traveled on this route previously, many others had used the lift to board the bus.
My trip on the American Airlines + Landline Company luxury bus from Philadelphia to Atlantic City and back was enjoyable, comfortable and wheelchair accessible. It was an experience that is difficult, if not impossible for airlines to replicate in the air — at least not until a wheelchair securement space for airplanes is installed on actual aircraft.
Multi-modal transportation solutions like this one are becoming more common, particularly in the European Union, where government, transportation authorities, and airlines have sought to replace short flights with rail connections. Rail service is of course preferable to bus transportation, however that seems unlikely in the United States, where intercity rail lines rarely serve airport stations.
Would I ride this service again? Yes, but not to Atlantic City! Wheelchair accessible transportation in Atlantic City is severely limited, making it difficult to reach the city center from the ACY Airport. While the American Airlines bus to Atlantic City won’t be in my future, I would be open to using it to other airports such as Lancaster and Lehigh Valley (Allentown, PA). Wherever you travel on the American Airlines bus, you should expect a high level of accessibility and a fairly enjoyable ride (traffic permitting!).