How to make bus travel more desirable than flying? Focus on the experience

Imagine you have to attend a work function in a city 500 miles away.

How do you get there?

You could take a train, but it will take the best part of a day. Flying is faster, but can be prone to delays, and getting to the airport often costs as much as the plane ticket and doubles the journey time. You could also drive your own car, but that means you will arrive tired, and could end up costing more in the form of lost productivity.

For many people, getting between major cities 5+ hours apart is a regular travel headache.

Tom Currier calls it the “500-mile problem” and now, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur and his partner, Gaetano Crupi, say they have a solution: a luxury hotel on wheels that lets you fall asleep in one city and wake up in another.

If it sounds like a bus, then that’s because it is. Except nowhere on Cabin’s website do they use the word bus.

Instead, just enticing descriptions of super soft sheets and fluffy pillows, blackout drapes and soundproof walls, much like you’d expect to read on a hotel’s website.

The buses depart around 11 p.m. and arrive at their destination the next day at 7 a.m. A road trip that could be completed in as little as six hours is actually extended to eight hours so that people are ensured enough time for a full night’s rest. Slowing down the drive by using longer routes distinguishes Cabin from early morning “red-eye” flights, which take less time but tend to disrupt a passenger’s sleep cycle.

Cabin drivers are trained to use an accelerometer app that measures changes in the vehicle’s speed and vibration. The data from the app is used to test new routes in hopes of creating the smoothest ride possible and enhancing passengers’ sleep. The company has even hired a team of engineers to develop a new suspension system that the company hopes will eventually make the buses so smooth passengers would be unable to tell that they’re on the road.



From a marketing perspective, Cabin is nothing short of genius. By cleverly positioning the bus as a hotel on wheels and focusing on the emotional benefits, the company has come up with a way to make bus travel more appealing than air travel – without charging rock-bottom prices. The fact that it takes seven times as long as making the same journey by air is by the by.

The entire focus is on customer experience. Once on board, passengers can relax on leather chairs in the bus’s lounge or retreat to their pod to rest or watch a movie. Depending on whether passengers want to fall asleep or wake up, camomile tea and espresso are available. Currier said the company’s “obsessive focus” on cleanliness and comfort is more similar to a hotel than an aeroplane or train.

Whether the service will revolutionise the way we travel remains to be seen. However, as Michael Manville, a professor of urban planning at UCLA recently told the Washington Post, “The company doesn’t need to change the world to be successful — they just need to fill their buses with people looking for a travel alternative.”


Jessie is a marketing and insight expert, specialising in selling to mums. To find out more about her expertise, or to book a consultation, click here.