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A few weeks ago, I found myself needing to get from Austin to Houston in Texas, on a Friday evening. Google said the roads would be busy, flights weren’t cheap, and dealing with taxi to airport + TSA + taxi back again wasn’t looking much fun either. Then google gave me an advert, which for once I actually wanted to see!
US domestic travel, in first class, for under $100! Vonlane – What’s not to like?
Their website looked a little too got to be true – city centre to city centre travel, in a decent large seat, with free wifi, for under $100? After a few checks, I dropped a huge $82 on a ticket (less than the flight would’ve been, let alone City-Airport taxi fees), and picked myself a nice seat.
A few weeks later, I discovered my conference was finishing a few hours earlier than expected, and tried to see how much it’d be to switch onto an earlier service. The bad – the website wouldn’t tell me, and didn’t seem to offer a chance button. The good – using their online chat feature, in under 5 minutes I’d had my ticket swapped onto the earlier service, for free, and a good seat picked!
In good news for Hyatt fans, Vonlane seem to use Hyatt hotels for their stops, so no dingy bus stations involved! I got to the hotel about 30 minutes before departure, and used the free Hyatt wifi while I waited to board. Around 20 minutes before they started boarding, and once I’d figured out which of the two coaches was the Houston one (Dallas was another option!), my bag was stowed and I was welcomed aboard.
For those who last used a bus on a school trip, you’re in for a very pleasant surprise on boarding – the seats make most US domestic first class planes look average! Very hefty leg room, nice recline, and comfy. Friendly cabin hostess too, friendlier and more helpful than many I’ve had in US domestic first, and a world away from US domestic economy…
Settling in, I got onto the wifi (password on the TVs!), plugged my laptop in, and enjoyed a cold bottle of water after the Texas heat. Shortly after I was offered a substantial laptop table to work from, while the person next to me took a blanket + pillow and settled in for a decent snooze. There were no issues with reclining the seat before departure, and no electronics had to be stowed before we set off. There was plenty of overhead space for bags, and no charge for checked luggage. Bliss!
On the road, there were frequent deliveries of drinks and snacks. Sadly no alcoholic drinks though – apparently they’d offered them until recently, but some arcane Texan law was currently preventing their previous service of local beers and wines. They did have coffee, which was all I needed at the time.
As we travelled, there were several announcements on traffic, and an eta which proved correct. Wifi held up well, and my post-conference inbox shrank pleasingly as the Texan countryside drifted past. About 3 hours later, the bus pulled into a stop outside the Hyatt, and we stepped out blinking into the Houston late afternoon, refreshed, and surprised by the heat after the aircon!
(A few days later, I had a busy trip out to IAH, queues to ditch bags, lengthy queues even with TSA Pre, scrum at boarding, and a seatbelt sign that hardly went off. Towards the end of that flight, I was wishing Vonlane went further than just Texas!)
Until the Texans sort out their much-mooted high speed rail, for anyone not already at an airport, Vonlane proved a convenient and civilised way to get from city to city. Oh, and I also earned some reward points in the process!