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Motor coach industry struggles during COVID-19 crisis

Arrow Stage Lines
Posted at 10:13 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 23:52:59-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With big events on hold during the COVID-19 crisis, the motor coach industry is struggling.

Within days of event cancellations followed by stay-at-home orders, business for Arrow Stage Lines came to a full stop.

"In the 92 years this company has been in business, nothing like this has occurred," Arrow Stage Lines' Heart of America Regional Director Joe Turner said.

Once the Big 12 Tournament was cancelled, business took a nosedive for the company, which is known for transporting tour groups, sports teams and celebrities.

"That continuation of business is very important to our survival," Arrow Stage Lines Vice President of Sales and Business Development Chuck Gunnels said.

The company has 40 motor coaches in the Kansas City area and six others are entertainment coaches, usually booked by touring artists. One was recently used by country singer Billy Ray Cyrus.

"Many tours that we have booked for the spring season immediately cancelled through May," Gunnels said.

So far, they've furloughed more than 100 drivers, mechanics and support staff in Kansas City.

According to Turner, the motor coach industry didn't receive any assistance from the CARES Act.

Turner would like to see the federal government offer some grants to the bus transportation industry.

"The programs that are available right now are they have a terms for repayment that are challenging for the motor coach industry to be able to use to sustain themselves," Turner said.

Once restrictions are lifted, the whole fleet won't immediately roll out.

"Business, for us, is going to come back slower," Gunnels said. "It's not like a restaurant opening up again. It's a group of people planning a trip or teams going to play their usual scheduled conference."

Arrow Stage Lines believes it may take a full year to get drivers back into the groove of things.

"They are just champing at the bit to go, but right now we have nowhere to go," Gunnels said.

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