I tried the Jet, a luxury bus startup that travels between New York City and Washington DC.
Tickets start at $99, which is more expensive than a comparable Amtrak ticket or a ride on a budget bus service.
The snacks, drinks, kind attendant, and comfortable motion-canceling seating made my carsickness worth it.
I took a luxury bus service from New York City to Washington DC for $99, and it was one of the plushest travel experiences I've ever had.
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.
The Jet departs from Hudson Yards. This outdoor departure away from any terminal means I didn't have to navigate the large, often busy corridors of an indoor station. It also means passengers board from the curb, just like discount carrier Megabus.
The 45-foot-long black coach with "THE JET" embossed on side told me I was in the right place. I arrived earlier, so I had plenty of time to pick up breakfast before checking in with the bus attendant, who operates like a flight attendant.
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.
Source: The Jet
These seats made road traveling feel more like flying, but better.
The gel and memory foam seats are 22-inches wide and plusher than my couch at home.
When my seat was fully reclined 45-degrees, I could have comfortably fallen asleep.
And because there's six feet between each row, I didn't have to worry about reclining too far.
Luckily, the seats' armrests have a built-in tray table, allowing me to lay back while tapping away on my laptop.
But unfortunately, I had to work, and couldn't take the nap I so longed for.
The coaches are equipped with the same WiFi used on Google and Facebook's employee shuttles, Scarborough previously explained.
The WiFi was no joke. It was reliable and the fastest I've ever used on a mode of transportation.
Almost every passenger was pattering away on their laptops during the bus ride, but I never encountered disruptions with the network, even when I was streaming music and videos.
The seats also have outlets that kept my laptop running throughout the entire journey.
So far so good, until around two hours into the ride. That's when I hit my first metaphorical bump in the road.
The motion-canceling seats did a great job of blocking the smaller bumps, but I could still feel the rocking motion of the bus. This was expected and would have otherwise been fine if I hadn't been staring at my laptop.
The longer I stared at the screen, the harder it became to read smaller blocks of text, a side effect that brought me back to my concussion four months ago.
The longer I worked, the worse my carsickness-induced nausea — a familiar feeling from stop-and-go traffic but never from long bus rides — became.
The headache, woozy uneasiness, and churning stomach made the remaining almost two hours more difficult to kill.
But when I looked around, most other passengers were still on their laptops and phones, a sign that nobody else was feeling as sick as I was.
Finally, after about five hours on the road, we arrived in DC at around 4 p.m. I quickly gathered my belongings, said my thank yous, and ran out to get some fresh air.
But honestly, despite my carsickness, the Jet was the most comfortable intercity travel experience I've ever had (noting that I've never used a luxury bus service before).
Boarding and departing the bus in an uncrowded outdoor area was an underrated luxury.
It seems like I'm not alone in enjoying the Jet.
In December, the startup averaged at above 70% ridership, peaking at 86% during the week of Thanksgiving, Scarborough told Insider in a statement.
January has been "slower" at around 40% ridership ahead of a mid-month weekend, but this is still above the company's initial projections.
Scarborough believes the Jet is "well-positioned" for the spring and summer travel boom.
The Jet ranges from almost $100 to up to almost $150. As of January 14, tickets for an 11 a.m. departure on Friday, January 28 start at $99.
A business class ticket for Amtrak's Acela departing at 11 a.m. starts at $90, while a coach ticket for the 11:35 a.m. Northeast Regional sits at almost $50. It's also worth noting that an Amtrak on the same route is about one-and-a-half to two hours faster and won't have to stop for traffic or bathroom breaks.
Meanwhile, the cheapest 11:00 a.m. bus ticket (Flixbus) on the same day is a mere $18, making it about one-fifth as costly as a ticket for The Jet.
If you're looking for luxury, the Jet may be your best choice. Though it's slower and more expensive, there's no arguing it's the most comfortable option.
Read the original article on Business Insider