As a fourth-generation family-owned motorcoach company, Arrow Stage Lines has maintained a high standard of excellence since 1928, placing customer comfort and safety at the forefront of their business model despite the onset of a global pandemic.
The company was originally founded by Carl Busskohl as a bread and mail delivery service, eventually evolving into a passenger transportation business. Based in Nebraska with locations in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada, Arrow Stage Lines is one of the largest privately held charter bus companies in the United States, providing services to a wide variety of groups including businesses, travel agencies, sports teams, schools, civic groups and more.
Luke Busskohl, regional director and chief operating officer at Arrow Stage Lines, notes that while COVID-19 was on the company’s radar, they never expected a total shutdown of their transportation services.
“I’ll never forget that week,” Busskohl said. “It was the week of the NCAA Basketball Tournament cancelation and when that happened, our business was completely frozen. We’ve been in business for 92 years now, and we’ve never experienced something like that.”
The agency began to make rapid adjustments, in an effort to maintain the longevity of the company and survive post-pandemic. With their lines running drastically fewer trips, several drivers and mechanics were furloughed to preserve dollars and save on insurance costs.
With a limited staff, Arrow worked diligently to maintain the same level of vehicle upkeep, adhering to rigorous maintenance schedules and guidelines.
“The reality of the matter is that I’m so impressed with our people,” Busskohl said. “They’ve taken on the challenge, taken on so much more to help us get us through this. But our on-road experience has been phenomenal. Our breakdowns have been very, very low and the customer base has been very happy.”
Arrow continues to stay in contact with furloughed employees through weekly Zoom meetings, continuously re-evaluating financial and staffing capabilities as ridership continues to grow.
With a significant portion of their business derived from athletic travel, Arrow has contracts with collegiate and professional athletic teams like the NCAA, and as professional sports began to recover and regenerate, Arrow was able to return to work providing safe and secure transportation.
“It wasn’t anything that was long-term sustainable, but it has really helped us preserve cash, and move forward as an organization,” Busskohl said. “When COVID is behind us and people want to travel in motorcoaches again, we’ll be strong, healthy, and ready to go.”
Arrow continues to clean and disinfect all vehicles before and after coming in contact with the ridership, setting in place extensive sanitization protocols for extended charter trips which generally last anywhere from one day to one week.
“We have protocols in place for our motorcoach operators to clean and disinfect the vehicles throughout the trip,” Busskohl said. “We’ve implemented a technology that documents those procedures, and what we can do with that technology.”
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Arrow invested in CURIS commercial fogging machines, a decontamination system that disinfects the interior of an entire bus using 7 percent hydrogen peroxide fog, killing 99 percent of germs – including COVID-19 particles.
While each manufacturer has their own onboard air quality guidelines, standard HVAC, MERV five or higher filter media are in place adding an additional layer of air quality purification with each Arrow bus running on a regular sanitization and purification schedule.
“The combination of all those things, being able to show our customers that we’re taking real safety measures gives them the confidence and security to ride our motor coaches,” Busskohl said. “It’s one thing to say you’re doing it, it’s another thing to prove it.”