|by Beth Collins||Local and Public Transportation||16|
Budget Travel has talked a lot about Megabus in the past year. The company (which provides city-to-city coach service in the Midwest and Northeast and some parts of the West Coast, and we gave it an Extra Mile Award for its innovations: 1) keeping its fares extremely low; 2) doing pickups and drop-offs in the centers of cities rather than at terminals; 3) equipping its double-decker fleet with free Wi-Fi, video screens, headsets, and seat belts. 4) offering alerts by cell phone in case of delays.
This weekend, I took my first Megabus trip, and was, for the most part, delighted with it. The tickets were cheap ($20 each way between New York and Washington, D.C.), the comfy, double-decker bus was squeaky clean, and we arrived in DC more or less on time. There was one crazy mishap, though, and I’m dying to hear what BudgetTravel.com readers have to say about it.
The bus made a stop just outside of New York, where a new driver replaced the original one, and another stop in Baltimore, where 17 people boarded. About 10 minutes after we left Baltimore, a few people started making noise about how we were heading in the wrong direction. The driver assured them that we were going to DC—at which point the Baltimore passengers realized they were on the wrong bus. Apparently, the digital sign on the outside of the bus read "New York," so they assumed the bus was going to New York. Our driver didn’t know this—remember, he had replaced another driver in the beginning of the trip and probably just assumed the sign was correct.
Right away, the driver called the Megabus dispatcher to see how he could help the Baltimore passengers, and the dispatcher told him to keep going to D.C. Throughout the process, the Baltimore passengers grew more and more irate. They were yelling at the driver, demanding that he make the next bus out of D.C. wait for them, threatening to sue Megabus, and so on. A few of them called Megabus on their cell phones to yell some more (one man screamed to the Megabus operator that he and 16 others were being hijacked). It was ugly.
At first I wasn’t sure who was at fault. Sure, the bus should have had the correct destination on the sign, but as a passenger, I can never imagine getting on a bus without verifying that it was going where I needed to go. Now, though, I’m pretty sure Megabus is responsible.
I called Megabus yesterday to find out how they handled it. They put the Baltimore passengers on a bus that left a little after 4 p.m., and issued full refunds.
So my question is this: What should Megabus have done for these passengers? Turned around and gone back to Baltimore (which would have made the D.C. passengers late)? Forced the next bus out of D.C. to wait for us to arrive so these passengers could get on (this would have made that bus late getting to New York)? Given the passengers full refunds? More?