A bus service making its debut this summer at airports in Mankato and Duluth will shuttle travelers to and from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. And it comes with an introductory deal that might be hard to pass up: $9 fares each way.
Called Landline, the service will offer four trips a day between MSP and Duluth beginning June 5, and five trips daily between MSP and Mankato starting June 7. Pickups and drop-offs will be made at Terminals 1 and 2 at MSP.
Fares eventually will rise to as high as $30 to $32 based on demand, said co-founder David Sunde. But fares will be competitive with other transportation options such as Jefferson Lines, which offers $25 fares between the Twin Cities and the Twin Ports, he said.
Los Angeles entrepreneurs Sunde, 27, and Ben Munson, 32, chose Minnesota for the shuttle service after studying regional airports across the country. They found that a high percentage of Minnesotans who could fly from their home airport chose instead to drive to MSP to start their trips.
In analyzing ZIP codes where airline tickets were bought, Sunde found that 65 percent of passengers who could fly out of Duluth drove to MSP. One reason, he surmised, is that they use MSP to fly on low-cost carriers that don’t serve the smaller airports.
Landline, Sunde said, plans to announce its first airline partner this spring. Passengers then will be able to book a seat on Landline when creating their itinerary on the airline’s website. That will allow them to drop their bags curbside when getting on the bus and collect them at their final destination — no need to check them in or pick them up when passing through MSP.
Allegiant Air was the last low-cost carrier to serve Duluth. It pulled out of the market in 2015 and left Delta Air Lines as the lone option. The airport launched a “Fly Local” campaign to boost traffic and attract more air service. Last year, United came in and passenger traffic surpassed 280,000, an increase of 13 percent over 2016. In May, American Airlines will start serving Duluth, and the growth is expected to continue, said airport spokeswoman Natalie Peterson.
Still, the airport has been unable to attract a low-cost carrier. That’s what makes Landline a great fit, Peterson said. It will bring in travelers who would not have gone to the smaller, local airport and will pay a fee for each passenger who gets on the bus. In Mankato, where there has not been passenger air service for decades, Landline’s arrival provides travelers with a direct motor coach ride to MSP.
Landline will need a couple hundred people a day to make the service work, Sunde said. Should it take off, there are plans to expand to Brainerd, Minn., and Eau Claire, Wis., by the end of the year.
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