I Tried a Luxury Bus Startup for $99 From NYC to Washington DC
I’ve never had a pleasant intercity bus experience (until now), but the complimentary snacks and beverages, fast WiFi, and motion-canceling seats made the ride enjoyable and comfortable.
That is until I got carsick. But more on that later.
I, like many other travelers in the US, do not have fond memories of sitting in intercity buses like Greyhound or Megabus.
Enter the Jet, a luxury bus startup looking to provide another option different from those sometimes-uncomfortable budget bus experiences.
Unlike the classic Flixbus or Greyhound, the Jet has comfortable seats, in-ride treats, and fast Wifi, among other bonuses. It’s more expensive, but the company is betting riders who can afford to will pay for the luxury and exclusivity.
Chad Scarborough, the Jet’s founder and CEO, predicts the company’s passengers are the top one to 2% of bus riders, or “people who want a nicer option” but don’t want to pay for an Amtrak, he said the first time I toured one of its buses in late 2021.
The startup isn’t a new concept: Luxury coaches like Vonlane have fared well in other markets, Scarborough noted.
But unlike Vonlane, which operates primarily in Texas, the Jet targets two cities with low car ownership: New York and Washington, DC.
Tripperbus, which also calls itself a “first-class bus service,” runs a similar route from Arlington, Virginia, and Bethesda, Maryland to New York City.
But the Jet drops off and picks up its passengers right in the heart of DC at Metro Center, about a 10-minute walk to the White House.
On January 7, the morning after New York’s first snow in the new year, I decided to take a ride on the Jet for a roughly five-hour ride from New York City to Washington, DC to test its offering.
The Jet only has two departure times from New York: 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. I booked the former hoping to get some work done on my Friday afternoon ride.
I already reserved my spot on the 14-seat bus so there was no need to rush onto the vehicle in hopes of getting a prime seat or space in the luggage compartment.
And the rows of seats are six feet apart as per COVID-19 protocols, providing ample legroom and space for my bags.
“We’ve had some people tell us [this] feels safer than taking a train or a plane because there’s so few people,” Scarborough said in 2021.
And I agree. Besides me, there were only nine other people on the bus including the driver and attendant. Everyone was required to mask up unless they were eating or drinking.
There’s also a UV filtration system that sanitizes the air every 10 minutes, according to the company.
Other than the person sitting next to me (who I live with) everyone felt distanced from my seat, making the Jet feel safer than any plane ride I’ve been on during COVID-19. And unlike planes, the Jet is also now enforcing a vaccine mandate.
The pre-booked seats, ample spacing, and warm attendant made for one of the safest-seeming and most relaxing boarding experiences I’ve ever had on any mode of transportation.
All I had to do was get on the bus, throw my bags on the floor in front of me, confirm my seat with the friendly attendant, and I was all good to go.
Throughout the bus ride, the attendant checked on the passengers and offered us a selection of complimentary snacks, water, wine, beer, coffee, and soda. And at the end of the bus ride, she collected our trash.
I don’t drink soda, and I passed on the free booze (I was, after all, still working), but just having these options made the Jet feel more luxurious than an economy seat on a plane.
We were offered The Jet-branded blankets to use during the bus ride, but I was already bundled in a thick sweater, so I passed.
There’s also a bathroom at the rear of the bus next to the attendant’s galley. The clean bathroom — although smaller than Amtrak’s — had the basics: a toilet, sink, mirror, and hand sanitizer.
But because it was freezing the night before, the bathroom pipes were frozen, putting the porcelain throne out of commission for the first half of the ride.
Luckily our driver scheduled a quick bathroom stop halfway through the journey, which was perfect for a quick stretch.
Snacks and a clean bathroom are great, but the Jet has an even stronger standout feature that sets it apart from any other luxury bus competitor or mode of travel: the motion-canceling “hoverseats.”
These seats are the Jet’s pièce de résistance and its biggest draw.
The seats use a suspension technology developed by Bose to block 90% of the bus ride’s uncomfortable bumps and movements.
The tech can be more commonly found in the long-haul truck industry, making the Jet the “world’s first” bus with motion-canceling seats, according to the company.