Last weekend my wife and I actually flew to Dragon Con. This may not seem like a big deal to many of my readers. Some of you, I’m sure, fly all the time. I have friends who do. Hell, I used to fly a lot myself. When I was a child my father traveled a lot for work. We used his frequent flier miles… frequently. But as an adult, I haven’t flown much at all.
I have four children. Flying a family of six is expensive, even when the individual tickets aren’t that bad. Even though our youngest can fly free if she sits on our lap, that’s still five tickets. It adds up fast. Also, it means we pretty much need to rent a van on the other end, and that isn’t cheap either. Oh, and then we get to our destination without car seats. The law isn’t too happy about that.
On top of that, our nearest airport is Huntsville International – consistently rated one of the most expensive airports in the country. And it really is that expensive.
Our frequent vacation spots also happen to be relatively close by. We typically travel to Atlanta for Dragon Con every year. That’s only a four hour drive. Between arriving at the airport an hour early, an hour in flight, and then time in the airport on the other end, it doesn’t actually save much time to fly there. Our other frequent vacation spot is Orlando. It’s only a ten hour drive. Flying actually would save some time… but it takes it from a full day trip to a half day trip, at best. That’s nice. But not nice enough to be worth the cost. I have family in the DC suburbs… but the math there is very comparable to Orlando.
This time, however, my wife stumbled across Boutique Air and we gave it a shot. We had to drive an hour to the airport. On the other hand, we basically showed up and walked right onto the plane. Lines? What lines? There were eight of us on the PC-12 we flew on – and we were the only eight passengers in the airport. The TSA check took about two minutes. Boarding took another two minutes. In essence, we traded the TSA wait for no line.
More importantly, it was cheap. Round trip tickets for both of us were only $250. Given that it would have cost us $25 a day to park at the hotel in Atlanta and more or less a full tank of gas to make the trip, flying proved to be only twice the cost of driving. On the trip out, it meant that we could wait until very nearly the end of the work day to leave, saving me the use of some precious vacation hours. And since we didn’t need parking at the hotel, we weren’t worried about the late arrival.
The trip home probably didn’t save us much time, since we had to get to the Atlanta airport so early. But I got to spend most of that time reading instead of driving, and I would’ve taken the whole day off anyway. And since we had no kids this weekend, and weren’t really driving anywhere, being without a car was actually convenient.
I have no idea how viable the Boutique Air business model is. But it worked really well for us. I only wish they offered service to more areas.