Faced with the choice between a pricey flight or a six-hour drive, many residents of the two cities choose simply to stay in their chosen metropolis. A new service wants to make those two cities feel more like neighbors than distant cousins.
Cabin describes itself as an “overnight travel experience” or a “hotel on wheels.” Far from a Greyhound Bus, Cabin has outfitted its vehicles with private sleep pods, running water, and the same sheets as the Ritz Carlton hotels. Passengers get on the vehicle around 11 p.m., enter their private sleep pod or enjoy some herbal tea, and by 7 a.m. they’re at their destination.
The company’s co-founders, Gaetano Crupi and Tom Currier, launched the trial phase of their service in 2016. After outfitting an old tour bus with sleeper beds and finer interiors, they launched under the name “SleepBus.” With a waitlist soon topping 20,000 people, they knew they had a service people wanted.
Travel + Leisure spoke with the co-founders on the heels of Cabin’s official launch in July, to discuss transportation, luxury, and the bright future of bus travel for T+L’s series on innovators who are changing the way we travel.
T+L: Could you talk a little bit more about how you first came up with the idea for Cabin?
Gaetano Crupi: Tom and I, the thing we were most excited about was really using that overnight trip to be able to spend every weekend 500 miles away. What would it be like to work in a city but live in another city, or another environment, or multiple environments? So we were really interested in that piece, and how do you build a city from scratch, or a second city from scratch?
T+L: Cabin also strikes me as something that people who are millennials would be interested in. Did you plan this project with that consumer in mind?
GC: That was a little bit of the inception of this idea: people basically they want to live their lives a little differently than their parents did. So that trip to southeast Asia, or that backpacking to Europe, has become somewhat of a millennial tradition. Everyone has a collective experience: you travel more, you want to optimize your time, you like working remotely — all of these things really are about how millennials want to expand the amount of experiences they can consume in a limited time. Yes, we think that people who understand that value of time are our customer. In summary, I don’t think the millennial is our consumer; I think our target market is really people who value and understand their time, and I think millennials are very attuned to that.
T+L: Do you have an element that you’re most excited about, whether it’s a feature of the bus itself or whether it’s just something that it enables people to do?
Tom Currier: The magic of Cabin is people actually sleeping. If someone gets on Cabin 10 minutes before departure, gets in their cabin, has a tea and then falls asleep, and then when they wake up they’re in Los Angeles, their experience of travel time is less than that of a flight. Because the amount of time you’re actually conscious during the experience is like less than the amount of time you spend in the security line at LAX.
T+L: How do you think this type of new transportation will affect the way that people think about travel?
GC: We want Cabin to create “and” decisions not “or” decisions. So it’s not “I live in L.A. or San Francisco.” It’s “I work in San Francisco and I spend my weekends in L.A., and wherever else.” …We really want to kind of use the American highway system to create a functioning train network.
T+L: Who are some of the other leaders in the transportation or travel industry, or some other projects that have inspired you?
GC: I love hotels and customer service. So when we started, after the SleepBus pilot, we came to the conclusion that in order to really change people’s perception of this type of vehicle, and have people really think that they could spend a good night’s stay, we really couldn’t make a bus feel like a hostel. That’s been done before, and to kind of gross experiences. It was more we had to create a boutique hotel that moved. So in terms of when we started thinking about design and service, we thought really about the Ritz Carlton in terms of their service, their attention to their customers, when we were developing our procedures.
T+L: Has it been hard to get people past the idea of what bus travel looks like?
TC: The initial questions that we had when we thought of this were like: How would Virgin America approach building a bus company? So thinking about everything from the brand experience, design, everything from a perspective of user experience and quality. And I think that’s been reflected in the types of people taking our vehicle now: lawyers, government workers, tech workers. People that would normally never find themselves taking a Megabus or Greyhound feel comfortable and safe, and enjoy the fact that the key difference between Cabin and any other form of transportation — even flying in business class — is that you have private space.
This interview has been edited for length.