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Luxury bus transportation in Florida is "On a Roll"

The past five years have seen the re-emergence of bus transportation, with a number of companies providing intercity bus travel on comfortable coaches with competitive fares, more routes and a focus on speed and convenience.

The trend has taken root in Florida as well. When Bill Hennessey founded Florida Express Bus in Kissimmee in early 2010, buses were just beginning to make inroads competing against short-haul airlines on popular routes. By staying lean and offering low fares, Florida Express grabbed a decent share of the Orlando-Miami traffic, so much so that at first it was known as the Orlando Miami Bus.

The small company, which does most of its booking online and its marketing through Facebook, has since expanded to serve more than two dozen other cities in Florida and the Southeast. In contrast to many airlines, which have dropped meals and slashed other amenities, Florida Express has created a number of luxury buses outfitted with galleys and staffed with attendants who serve salads, sandwiches, drinks and snacks and act as “full-service concierges.” Even the company’s smaller buses feature reclining bucket seats with arm rests and reading lights.

Among other bus transportation companies in Florida:

» RedCoach USA links most major cities statewide and launched daily service from Orlando and Miami in 2010. Buses feature reclining leather seats with extra legroom.

» MegaBus.com rolled into the Orlando area in 2011 and made a splash with fares as low as $1 and daily service to Jacksonville, Atlanta and other cities.

» Shortly after RedCoach entered the Orlando market and spread statewide, Greyhound launched Greyhound Express, offering similar premium, direct service to and from centers such as Orlando, Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville and Fort Lauderdale.

The companies are succeeding in part by attracting college students and young adults. They offer free wi-fi computer access, laptop work tables and other features, without the downside of airport security and other delays.

With lower fixed-costs, the companies have more flexibility to add or drop locations and routes based on changing traveler demands.