Beating the Airlines

iamtheari

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This is a thread about why I don’t really care how much my insane flying hobby costs, I will choose to afford it as long as I can.

A couple weeks ago, when it was -25F or colder, my car blew up its water pump. A couple days later, I checked the coolant in my wife’s car to be sure it wouldn’t freeze when I drove it to work on an even colder day coming up that week…and somehow managed to lose the cap. I can work remotely for about 75% of what I do and I have a list of date ranges when I have no in-person commitments between now and summer, so other than weather and a must-return-by date I can just pick up and go when I’m in one of those windows. With one car in the shop and the other waiting for a part to be safe to drive more than the bare minimum, I decided to get out of Dodge for a week and work from my parents’ house in Arizona.

My wife, 60-pound dog, and I flew south on January 20 and back north on January 28. With a one-hour stop southbound and a 50-minute stop northbound, our block time all-in was 7:24 down and 6:58 back. We hauled a couple of electric scooters with us (they’re not useful here when the sidewalks are lost in the snow and ice) and a coffee table back north for my mom (don’t ask). On this end, it’s 5 minutes to the airport and, while I didn’t track the time leaving, when we returned it was 52 minutes from touchdown to walking in the door at the house, including getting another airplane out of the way in the hangar with a dark, icy apron, unloading all our stuff, and making a detour past my office to pick up the new radiator cap for the car. On the other end, we used a crew car to get to the house and retrieve mom’s car since she was out of town, which amounted to about an hour total shuffling around from landing the plane to counting the stars in the back yard. All-in, it adds up to between 8 and 9 hours from leaving one house to relaxing in the other one.

Our airline service consists of United, Delta, and Allegiant. I can’t afford all the extra fees Allegiant charges to get the real airline experience (plus, they arrive on the wrong end of Phoenix for my needs). Due to all United flights going through Denver, they have a lower dispatch reliability for North Dakotans in the winter than GA does. Neither airline is going to work for our dog, even if I were willing to subject her to checked baggage, because it’s all regional service here. The boarding kennel is $30/day and, for many reasons, I try to avoid that for more than a weekend at a time.

For my next window of opportunity a few weeks from now, Delta’s itinerary is 13:00-18:00 down and 10:25-17:00 back for $1,250 per nonrefundable economy seat. Plus it’s a 2-hour drive to the airport on this end and about 45 minutes on that end. Add 1 hour for parking and TSA, 1 hour as a minimum safety buffer for driving in the winter, baggage claim, and some Uber/Lyft expenses on arrival in AZ. We have to leave the house by 9:00 a.m. to get to mom’s house around 7:30 p.m. (11-1/2 hours with the time change) and leave her house by 9:00 a.m. to get home around 8:00 p.m. (10 hours). Worse itineraries (get home at 3:00 a.m. on a school night, leave home at 1:30 a.m. to go to the airport, etc.) save no more than $100 per seat.

Airlines: $3,000 total cost, 21-1/2 hours total travel time, no dog, no electric scooters, and no coffee table.

GA: Better price as long as the plane costs $240/hr or less to fly (for only fuel about $1,200 less than the airlines), 17 hours total travel time (4 hours less than the airlines), happy dog, electric scooters, and happy mom with her ridiculous coffee table.

I won this round.
 
I look forward to being able to start flying myself again for Rapid City. Right now I'm having to go to Chicago, then Denver and then Rapid. Two connections suck. The Chicago to Rapid flight comes back April 1. But when I fly, despite it being 5 hours straight, which lots of you won't do, I don't have to get up at 4:30am. I can get up at 6 as normal and still get to Rapid at the same time as the airlines. Plus I won't have any 350 pounders sitting on top of me. Actual cost is about a push depending on when I book the tickets to Rapid.

I've been drooling over fiki planes the last 2 months. I don't have a place to store a PA46 and an Aerostar would bankrupt me. There are also no fiki Senecas on the market that seem any good. So I stay put and dream of the sun again.
 
There are also no Senecas that seem any good.
FTFY ;)

I can do WI to Denver and beat the airlines, but that's about the limit of my donut for doing so. Of course GA is also subject to the whims of mechanical issues and weather. But when taking the dog 100% there's no other way, it's a comparison between driving and flying because airlining with a dog is just not an option in my opinion.
 
Piston GA is still a viable option in 2024, assuming you're willing to hand-wave all the training and proficiency flying. Especially if your home and destination don't happen to be big city pairs. The math works even better when you fill all the seats.

ETA: Dibs on Dr. Bruce's PA34 when he's done with it....
 
Last summer I was visiting a friend in Denver. Coming home, her house is 15 minutes from KBJC, but over an hour to KDEN.

Flight from KDEN to KBWI is 3+30, but you have to be at the airport 2 hours before. And it is 45 - 1 hour from getting out of the terminal to home. From my landing to my home for my plane is about 30 minutes max (and that it taking time to wipe off the bugs).

So commercial is 1 + 2 + 3.5 + 1= 7.5 hours with a non-stop flight.

I had nice tailwinds, so it was a 7 hour take off to touchdown flight, so .5 (say 15 minutes to preflight start and taxi) +7 + 30 = 8 hours.

And no sitting around an airport. A lot less walking (I have back problems) and I could leave when I wanted to.
 
After sitting in CLT Friday for almost 8 hours waiting for a re-scheduled connection, that SR22T is looking better every day.....
 
Unless it’s a non-stop 121 flight, most of the US we travel too is just as quick in a 172 as it is on the airline. Cost is comparable to favorable for us, too…dispatchability is the only aspect where 121 nudges out our GA options.
 
If I tried to make any attempt at all to show that my GA flying was substantially superior to driving or flying commercial in a financial or time sense, I would come out upside down so far I'd expect to hear "G'day!" from the next person I saw.

My three most common flying destinations are 150-225nm. Unless there's really heavy traffic, driving is almost always faster door-to-door, and it's certainly cheaper. Plus weather is rarely a factor when driving (I live in the south).

I live as close to a major Southwest hub as I do to my GA field. Unless I'm going somewhere super-podunk, anything further than ~300nm is probably coming close to parity time-wise with commercial, and SWA is almost certainly WAY cheaper (I almost always fly solo for traveling), even if I'm only counting fuel.

I do have one mission where my plane excels over other options: When I pick up my brother and carry him to my sister's house for family gatherings. He can't make that drive anymore. That trip would be miserable (for me) by car, but is a joy in my plane, and he loves it, too. Unfortunately, his physical constraints will eventually end that mission. Cherokees were not built for those with limited physical agility.

Otherwise, the only reason that justifies my GA flying is "because I want to". Fortunately, that's the only justification I need!
 
I normally always fly my plane when I have to go see my clients. It cuts an 8 hour drive into a 2-3 hour flight. Last time though I thought let’s take the airline. It’s $200 for the ticket vs. $600+ for gas. Oh I regretted that choice almost immediately.

Driving to my small airport: 20 minutes
Driving to the big airport: 2 hours

Once I got to the big airport for my 6 pm flight, I found out my plane is delayed. According to staff, shouldn’t be by much. Ended up departing at 11.30 pm. Got to my destination after all the rental car agencies were closed so stuck with Uber for this trip. Return trip was uneventful but the aftermath wasn’t. Since people apparently are inherently dirty, they fly while being sick and full of germs so I picked up my first flu in 4 years. My wife got it too so both of us were knocked out for days. So, at the end, I didn’t really save any money or time by flying the airline. Needless to say, never again.
 
If we’d have flown the RV-8 to Oshkosh last year, we would’ve gotten there an hour sooner, for a bit less cost, and not gotten sick from our fellow airline passengers.
 
I've made the comparison before as well. I live about 1,100 sm from my family.

Drive - 16 hours give or take. $200 of gas plus meals.

Fly Commercial - 12 hours door to door typically. Doesn't help my parents are 1 hour from the nearest commercial airport, so ground transportation can be an issue as well. Last time I ended up missing a connection causing an overnight layover, turned into 27 hours door to door. Usually $500-600.

Fly Private - 5 hours in the Comanche with no wind. Can be done non-stop with a light tailwind and cooperate bladder. $1,200

Time = Money
 
Once I got to the big airport for my 6 pm flight, I found out my plane is delayed. According to staff, shouldn’t be by much. Ended up departing at 11.30 pm.
I have had to be (or become) flexible about my travel plans more often with the airlines than I have with GA. Part of that is because I book airlines when the trip is time-sensitive, whereas with GA I am usually working with preexisting flexibility. For example, if the weather last week had looked bad, we would have simply stayed home. On the other hand, when the airline got me to Hawaii a day late in November, I was glad that our original plan was to spend 2 nights in Waikiki before boarding the cruise, otherwise we would have literally missed the boat.
 
with GA I am usually working with preexisting flexibility.

Same. If opting for GA (which I have always done in the past few years except when crossing the big pond and except that one flight where I should have opted for GA), I always bake in flexibility. Sometimes that means getting to my destination a day early in order to avoid weather. Sometimes that means going back home a day later. But the major difference is, I know it and am in control of it, which means, I can extend my hotel or go to the office and work. I can also control my departure and arrival time to make sure I will arrive at a time convenient for me (car rentals, hotel check-in, etc.). If the airline decides that they're leaving late (or not at all), I'm stuck at an airport and I find it incredibly hard getting work done in that environment. Plus, no one is coughing at me lol.
 
I normally always fly my plane when I have to go see my clients. It cuts an 8 hour drive into a 2-3 hour flight.

When I was covering accounts local to my area I would do that too... fly KCMA to KFUL, KCRQ, or KYMF...and then get an Uber to my destination.. sure beat sitting in Southern CA bumper-to-bumper traffic..
 
Don't forget before you get thru the 1st TSA check point your head is ready to explode and you want to murder 37 people..... Maybe that's just me :goofy:
Murder 37 people??? Are you insane???? Slow torture is much more effective and the potential criminal penalties are greatly reduced ;)
 
If you live near a Bravo airport and going to a Bravo, then yeah commercial might win. But anything else and forget it for sure. My friend always wants to meet me somewhere when traveling and typically has 1-2 connections, usually a missed or cancelled flight (actually every single time!!) and it ends up being a 20+ hour venture. I could have almost flew to Alaska but of course I want to slow down and take a few stops along the way and explore.
 
NRG. Get a seneca with known ice and shovel $$s into it. Ari's tale is why I'm not giving it up.
"Is my shovel big enough?"....we shall see....
I haven't seen a decent one on the market. I'm willing to let you help me shop. :) They just don't look good to me for what's available.
 
I keep encountering trips where I beat the airlines -- something that should never happen since my missions are usually metro area to metro area and well-served by the airlines. Their price-jacking seems to be happening much faster than my aviation cost increases, which are still prodigious.

I also think it helps that I am increasingly willing to upgrade to de-suck my airline experience. And I think the airlines know it, since they keep removing amenities and hiding them behind little fee grabs.
 
To drive back home is about 17hrs. Flight time in a 172 is about 9 hrs plus 2 fuel stops, so call it 10 with quick stops (fill one tank, empty the other, and in flight snacks). Commercial, I can drive 1.5 to the airport, roughly 6 hours total flight time, including layover, then 1 hr on the other end. (Total time 8.5-9) and that flight costs $479. (cheaper fares can be had for as little as $219 and 4:45 total flight time).

As much as I'd like to say that me flying is cheaper, faster, or both, I don't think I can genuinely make that argument.
 
I don’t know about you guys, but many times when I’m flying with one stop, I like to take my sweet time - it’s like a vacation. Full rental power in the air, but on the ground I want to find a restaurant or hang out/explore the FBO, maybe nap for 20 min-to-1 hr if there is a comfy chair. Not always, but often, so it does add some extra time to my trips, but I don’t care, still better than airlines.

I feel like if I try to beat or match the airline time, they actually win cuz I’m rushing and not relaxing, lol! It’s not really us vs them, but I’m competitive…
 
I don’t know about you guys, but many times when I’m flying with one stop, I like to take my sweet time - it’s like a vacation. Full rental power in the air, but on the ground I want to find a restaurant or hang out/explore the FBO, maybe nap for 20 min-to-1 hr if there is a comfy chair. Not always, but often, so it does add some extra time to my trips, but I don’t care, still better than airlines.

I feel like if I try to beat or match the airline time, they actually win cuz I’m rushing and not relaxing, lol! It’s not really us vs them, but I’m competitive…

I don't like hanging out for too long on fuel stops. Get on the ground, fuel up, me, dog and wife do our bio businesses and back up in the air. My fuel stops are usually 20-30 minutes. I don't do it to beat the airlines or anyone. I just want to get to the destination ASAP and then I can relax.
 
I don't like hanging out for too long on fuel stops. Get on the ground, fuel up, me, dog and wife do our bio businesses and back up in the air. My fuel stops are usually 20-30 minutes. I don't do it to beat the airlines or anyone. I just want to get to the destination ASAP and then I can relax.

It’s about the journey, not the destination :p
 
I don’t know about you guys, but many times when I’m flying with one stop, I like to take my sweet time - it’s like a vacation. Full rental power in the air, but on the ground I want to find a restaurant or hang out/explore the FBO, maybe nap for 20 min-to-1 hr if there is a comfy chair. Not always, but often, so it does add some extra time to my trips, but I don’t care, still better than airlines.

I feel like if I try to beat or match the airline time, they actually win cuz I’m rushing and not relaxing, lol! It’s not really us vs them, but I’m competitive…
I don't like hanging out for too long on fuel stops. Get on the ground, fuel up, me, dog and wife do our bio businesses and back up in the air. My fuel stops are usually 20-30 minutes. I don't do it to beat the airlines or anyone. I just want to get to the destination ASAP and then I can relax.
This is another advantage of GA over airline travel. When you fly yourself, you can decide as you go how long to relax between legs. You don’t have to commit to 20-minute mad dashes or 4-hour naps ahead of time.
 
Friends don’t let friends fly commercial ;-). About driving? I don’t enjoy it. So my break point is somewhere between 50-100 mi. Don’t like the airline experience so will fly myself any time as long as the plane is available. Justifying cost…. That is where you have to be good at vulcan mind games. If you do own the plane, though, you are paying fixed costs whether you fly or not, so mostly looking just at direct operating costs. That helps quite a bit.
 
How big is your shovel?
This round is likely to be six figures…..sigh.
Actually buying a cheap airframe and shoveling money into it would be beneficial with the tax situation in IL. Buy one with run out engines and no avionics for next to nothing, build it up over time, get your training and insurance hours done, then sell the Lance and never be without a nice airplane....

If you'll excuse me, I'm off to shop for Senecas

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