Running an airline is a difficult business, and several firms have had to close their doors or merge with competitors to stay afloat. Being an airplane passenger isn’t easy, either, for a variety of reasons that anybody who has ever visited an airport can easily list. Landline, a four-year-old transportation firm located in Fort Collins, Colorado, believes it has discovered a method to improve the experience for both airlines and passengers. What’s the major idea? To disperse the check-in process by processing passengers at a number of smaller check-in hubs closer to their residences, well before they arrive at their leaving gate.
If all goes according to plan, its passengers will be dropped down only a hop, skip, and a jump from the jet they’re about to board. Of all, huge ideas frequently begin with little ones, and Landline, established by Stanford alumnus David Sunde, is now primarily a bus service that transports people from regional centers to major airports. It arose after Sunde spent nearly four years, on and off, with the aviation firm Surf Air, where he witnessed some of the issues faced by regional airline carriers, such as high operating costs and pilot shortages.
Landline, on the other hand, does a lot more than merely punch tickets for passengers. It has already formed relationships with American Airlines, United Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines, whose passengers purchase flights with Landline, which operates as a white-labeled business, without their knowledge. In terms of travelers, they’ll board an American Airlines bus — if that’s the supplier — that’ll be packed with AA programs and appointments, and the cost of getting to the airport from a hub closer to their house is simply factored into the entire ticket price. Meanwhile, due of these relationships, Landline is able to check in both passengers and their bags, allowing them to go through airport security as their final step when they arrive at the airport.
Of course, taking care of that last stage isn’t easy. The longest security lineups are the worst aspect of most travelers’ trips. However, Landline is working on it as well. Indeed, Sunde thinks it would be “game-changing,” and that Landline would not only be the first ground transportation provider in the country to gain the Transportation Security Administration’s endorsement but that he also expects it to happen.
“Regional airlines already have regulatory permission; when it occurs for us, it will be an industry first, which is extremely fantastic,” Sunde adds. “I try to be polite of the TSA at all times, and they’re taking their time; we’ve been working with them for a long time.” But I’m not pessimistic. We’ve successfully entered increasingly difficult situations.” Tusk Ventures, a firm that has positioned itself as a type of authority at the interface of innovation and policy, is likely to be assisting the business, which intends to eventually carry passengers straight to a nearby gate. (The firm’s founder, Bradley Tusk, formerly worked in politics and was an early Uber advisor.)
Upfront Ventures, Matchstick Ventures, Wildcat Capital, and Drive Capital are among Landline’s supporters. Drive Capital recently led a $28 million round in the firm, bringing its total investment to $38 million. Meanwhile, the corporation is doing everything it can to establish an infrastructure that will ensure its long-term viability. While it has its own ground transportation permit, it also has the same insurance requirements as a regional airline, as well as the same safety and security staff.
It can now press the pedal to the metal, so to speak, with its recently obtained funds. While it now runs in nine locations spanning Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Colorado, it plans to expand as soon as possible. It will also spend a portion of the $28 million to expand its 100-person staff, with operations accounting for around a quarter of the total. (Many of the remainders are corporate drivers who work full-time for the corporation.) Sunde says the firm is concentrating on setting up its own on-shore software development team to work on a door-to-door offering that Landline is now testing, in which passengers are picked up at home rather than driving to a nearby hub.
It’s not a glamorous industry, but it might be an ignored opportunity, especially with the current overcrowding at airports and customer dissatisfaction with most airlines. “The concept that the airport doesn’t have to be close to the runway is very much the future of the motorcoach company,” Sunde explains. “It might be in the building’s basement or a shopping mall.” We may also disperse check-in and load away from areas where infrastructure is particularly difficult to repair.”