Jakob Lehrke was all smiles as he held his $8.99 one-way bus ticket that would take him from the Mankato Regional Airport to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.
“Trying to find parking up there and paying for it is a hassle. This is a good deal.”
Lehrke had just the night before heard about the new Landline bus service that makes five daily round trips between Mankato and MSP.
The Janesville resident hitched a ride to the Mankato airport from friend, but after talking with the Landline employees as he checked in, he found out he wouldn’t have had to hitch a ride. “I just found out you can park your car here for free. I like that.”
Missy Manderfeld, of Mankato, was also trying Landline for the first time, heading for a flight to Colorado, where her granddaughter just turned 5.
“I’m not driving up there anymore,” she said of taking her car to MSP.
She got a $17.98 round-trip ticket on Landline. “Not bad considering how much it costs to park up there.”
David Sunde, the founder of Landline, said their first two months of operation in Mankato and in Duluth have gone well.
“We’ve been running a solid operation. We haven’t canceled any legs. Ninety-three percent of our departures arrive on the dot (on time). I’m really proud of that.”
“We’re getting very positive reviews. We’re doing everything we can to make sure we have long-term customer relationships. Our biggest struggle so far is people knowing we’re here.”
While he wouldn’t disclose ridership figures, Sunde said the numbers are about in line with their expectations.
Ridership is likely to grow soon after Landline announces an airline it is partnering with. That will allow people to book a flight on that airline, come to the Mankato airport and check their baggage with Landline, with Landline getting the bags onto their flight so passengers don’t have to deal with them at MSP. On return trips, their bags will be in Mankato when they arrive.
He said most riders are going to MSP to catch a flight, but about a third of their customers use Landline simply to get to the Twin Cities and back. And some riders are using Landline to commute to and from work in the Cities.
Sonya Davis is an on-board attendant for Landline. “I tell people about the features on the bus, hand out a snack and beverage, take care of them,” Davis said.
She was previously driving a shuttle from a Minneapolis hotel to MSP when a friend told her about the Landline job. “It’s related to what I was doing. I love it.”
She said the early morning, mid afternoon and evening trips often have the most passengers.
Landline departs the Mankato airport at 4:20 a.m., 8:50 a.m., 1:15 p.m., 5:50 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. Shuttles depart from MSP at 6:45 a.m., 11 a.m., 3:30 p.m., 8:10 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.
The buses have restrooms, WiFi and leather seats with generous legroom.
Sunde said their service in the larger city of Duluth is busier than the Mankato route. He said that beyond Duluth residents heading to MSP for a flight, there are a lot of riders from the Twin Cities or Mankato using Landline to get to Duluth for a visit.
“Especially during bigger events like Grandma’s or the air show,” Sunde said.
Lehrke said that when he was looking on Landline.com he noticed a trip from Mankato to Duluth was a good deal.
“I saw a trip for $9.99 to Duluth from here,” Lehrke said.