I’ve been intrigued by Vonlane since I first read an article about it five years ago.
Finally, I recently had the chance to ride the “fancy bus,” as I like to call it, from Austin to Dallas. This is the equivalent of flying first class, and I have to say, I feel like the time passed a lot faster on Vonlane than it ever does on a plane.
To break it down: You make your reservation, select your seat and get your boarding pass online. In Austin, the bus picks up at the downtown Hyatt on Lady Bird Lake. (Check the full schedule and routings here.) You ride a lux coach bus (with a bathroom and only 22 seats) to the DoubleTree Hotel at Love Field in Dallas. While on board, you kick back in oversize leather seats and have access to Wi-Fi and onboard entertainment options.
If you’re like me and you’re there to work, you get a lap desk and what Vonlane calls a “quiet coach.” Plus there’s everything from drinks, snacks and sandwiches to hand wipes, earplugs and a neck pillow from the good-natured attendant. You can even borrow the likes of chargers (yes, there are outlets!) and umbrellas. #service.
We got the inside scoop on this growing service that offers affordable personal space and legroom when we spoke with Vonlane founder and CEO Alex Danza.
How long has Vonlane been transporting passengers around Texas?
We’re celebrating our five-year anniversary this spring. Our inaugural coach departed from Dallas to Austin on May 5, 2014. Since that time, we’ve expanded to five cities in Texas and offer up to 66 departures daily. We’ve become a preferred travel partner for road-weary business travelers as well as retirees and college students.
Where did the idea originate?
As a recovering road-warrior – with the million-mile badge to prove it—I was simply tired of airline travel, airports and delays, as well as the impact to my productivity and comfort. I knew there had to be a better way, and I sought to create an alternative to airlines or driving between Texas cities.
What routes do you support in Texas?
We serve five major Texas cities with daily coach service. Our routes include: Dallas to Austin and Houston; Fort Worth to Austin and Houston; Austin to Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston; Houston to Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio; and San Antonio to Houston.
Beyond our scheduled routes, we also provide special services for certain college football games between Texas cities, as well as chartered services for group travel.
What’s the benefit of Vonlane over flying?
Our value is giving our passengers back time and in providing some of the luxury that’s lacking in travel today. With our service, passengers arrive 15 minutes prior to departure and board the coach. Our leisure travelers enjoy the easy boarding experience and ability to bring along baggage for no additional fee. Our coaches themselves are built for comfort with no middle seats; reclining, leather chairs and free video-on-demand. And our pricing doesn’t fluctuate based on time of booking or seat availability, which is the case for airlines.
Who are your target markets?
Vonlane is for any traveler who has been frustrated by the stress and hassle that comes with short-haul flights and driving Texas highways. One niche we’ve been so pleased to serve is the senior citizen. Air travel can be exhausting and overwhelming for seniors, so it’s gratifying for us to be able to help make a visit from a grandparent safe, comfortable and stress-free. We also have a lot of fun transporting sports fans to and from big games with our charter service.
How do you combat the challenges of passengers paying for overnight parking at their home terminus, and not having access to a car once they reach their destination?
Our parking fees are competitive with, or less than, typical airport parking fees; therefore, passengers can still plan to pay less overall for their entire trip. With centrally located terminals, our passengers have convenient access to rental cars, public transportation and Uber upon arrival. Plus, our rewards program automatically gives passengers credit for every mile they travel, earning them discounts for future travel. Many of our loyal passengers would tell you that Vonlane is a far superior way to travel—both in terms of cost and experience—than a cattle-call airline or driving themselves.
Cover photo Chris Kelley
Marika Flatt, the Travel Editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine, is a native Texan who can’t get enough of the Lone Star State.