Airport Shuttles are the Bane of my Existence (Warning: Rant Ahead)

Good evening everyone, please prepare yourself for a mega rant here.  They don’t call me G-rant for nothing (ok, no one calls me that). All nonexistent nicknames aside, let’s talk about airport shuttles (or are they called hotel shuttles?).  Like the title says, airport shuttles are the bane of my existence.  But what does “bane” even mean?  According to the always reliable, never duplicatable, bane means:

The noun bane refers to anything that is a cause of harm, ruin, or death. But we often use it for things that aren’t that bad, just feel like it. You might say mosquitoes are the bane of your existence.

The source of this word is Middle and Old English bana, meaning “destroyer, murderer.” The now obsolete meaning of “deadly poison” is seen in the names of poisonous plants such as wolfsbane and henbane. Although “bane of my existence” is a commonly heard phrase, there’s something deliciously archaic about the word bane. It conjures up villages preyed upon by dragons, or witches adding one bane or another to a steaming kettle.

If an airport shuttle ran over you (like the holiday classic, “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”), you could literally say “airport shuttles are the bane of my existence” because the airport shuttle caused bodily “harm”, “ruin”-ed your day, and was your cause of “death.”  Normally, that is not the case with airport shuttles.  And before I get too deep into my rant, let me clarify that I don’t have a problem with all airport shuttles, just the specific airport shuttle I am waiting for.  For whatever reason, my airport shuttle is the only airport shuttle that takes the longest time to arrive, or forgets where the airport is located, or some other lame excuse.  I’m not sure why my airport shuttle can’t be like all the other airport shuttles I see – arriving at the airport on time, with plenty of open seats, and with a safety-minded shuttle driver behind the wheel.

Airport shuttle = bane of my existence. Image source:

I was reminded of my airport shuttle hatred twice this weekend.  The most recent experience waiting for an airport shuttle occurred Saturday afternoon.  I was waiting at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) shuttle pickup location and saw several airport shuttles come and go.  I was staying at the Chicago Marriott O’Hare hotel and kept a close eye out for the airport shuttle.  I knew the hotel was close by and had airport in the name, so the airport shuttle should be arriving any minute.  After many minutes passed, I called the hotel to check on the airport shuttle.  The rep said the airport shuttle picks up passengers every 30 minutes, on the top and bottom of the hour.  It was around 3:40pm when I called and the rep said the next airport shuttle would arrive at 4pm.  Strange, I thought, I was here since 3:15pm and did not see the 3:30pm airport shuttle stop and then leave.  Oh well, I decided to wait until 4pm for the next airport shuttle to arrive.  Oh, I almost forgot.  Chicago was freezing this weekend, with weather in the mid 30s to low 40s.  I was standing outside for roughly 30 minutes freezing my butt off and contemplating all the other poor life choices I had made up until that point (this also happens when I am stuck on a long flight with no end in sight).

4pm rolls around but my airport shuttle does not.  By this point, I was smarter than your average (Chicago) bear (fan) and decided to go inside the waiting area (where the temperature was much higher than outside).  I stood right by the window so I could see every hotel shuttle pass by.  I remember seeing the same shuttles come and go, but still not my airport shuttle.  There was a gentleman inside the waiting area nearby.  He made a call and I could tell by his tone that he had been waiting a long time too.  I asked him if he was waiting for the Chicago Marriott O’Hare airport shuttle and he said yes.  During the call, he found out that the airport shuttle had a problem and was not running, but the hotel would pay for a taxi ride to the hotel.  He invited me to come along and off we went.  Luckily, there was a taxi nearby that took us to the hotel.  Phew, after almost an hour and a half, I made it from the airport to the hotel.

Let’s rewind the story a little farther back to Friday evening around 11:45pm.  Minutes earlier, I accepted a $500 travel voucher from United Airlines for volunteering to give up my first class seat from San Francisco (SFO) to Chicago (ORD).  That was the last flight of the night and severely oversold.  Along with the travel voucher, I was given $60 in food vouchers and $130 credit to stay at a nearby airport hotel.  United Airlines spared no expense and gave me a hotel voucher for the Comfort Inn & Suites San Francisco Airport North.

United Airlines $500 Travel Voucher. Courtesy: United Airlines

After waiting only 4-5 minutes, the airport shuttle pulled up and I got on, along with 15-20 other people. From what I could see and overhear, almost everyone heading to this hotel had a hotel voucher from being bumped from their United Airlines flight or from missing their United Airlines connection. After a short drive, we arrived at the hotel, unloaded from the airport shuttle and walked inside. Unfortunately, this is where the real fun began. There was only 1 agent checking people in and it took him 5 minutes per room. I was probably the 12th person in line, and by line, I mean a giant mess of people standing near the counter, around the waiting area and near the automatic sliding glass door.

Comfort Inn & Suites Hotel Checkin “Line”

30 minutes had passed and another shuttle full of people offloaded and attempted to fill the gaps of the already over packed checkin / waiting area. I started to feel a sense of panic that I was never going to get to the front of this “line” and started contemplating which corner of the waiting area would be my bed for the night. After another 40 minutes passed, I finally made it to the front of the “line”, handed over my hotel voucher, credit card and driver’s license. After a short conversation with the agent, I was all checked into my room.

So what could I have done differently if I am in the same or similar situation again in the future? Considering that I tip the shuttle drivers $2 per trip and that an Uber/Lyft ride to each hotel would have cost under $10, I’ve vowed from this day forward to never wait for an airport shuttle to pick me up from the airport. Don’t get me wrong, I will still gladly take the airport shuttle from the hotel back to the airport. For some miraculous reason, those airport shuttles always seem to leave on time.

With my new rule in mind, I should stop caring so much about hotels near airports that offer airport shuttles. It’s not worth my time waiting for an airport shuttle to pick me up when a short and cheap Uber/Lyft ride will gladly suffice.

That’s my view on airport shuttles. I would love to hear if you agree with my hatred of airport shuttles or if you are an airport shuttle aficionado. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. Have a great evening everyone.

7 thoughts on “Airport Shuttles are the Bane of my Existence (Warning: Rant Ahead)

  1. DaninMCI

    I agree. Any kind of airport shuttle bus are a huge time sink. I pay twice the regular economy parking rate at my home airport to park close enough to the terminal that I can walk. I’ve saved tons of time. Hours of my life. While if you’re on a tight budget a free airport shuttle might be worth the wait. Any other time you’re better off to just Uber or taxi over. What’s even better is if you can find a nearby hotel that is off airport near an off airport car rental office. You’ll save the high airport surcharges.
    While I’ve run into many great, hardworking shuttle bus drivers. The experience is just not awesome. The only worse way to get to the hotel is Supershuttle type vans. Why is it that I’m always staying at the last hotel out of 10 passengers.
    I will stop my rant but basically airport shuttles are equal to checking bags. Sometimes you need to but every time you do you lose a little of your life that you’ll never get back. It’s also well worth the extra expense to just book a car service, taxi or uber after a late or long itinerary.

  2. David

    I hate hotel shuttles and try to avoid them. I’m staying at O’hare in a few days. I cancelled a reservation at the Hilton which is only a few minutes walk from the terminal in order to stay at the Marriott Suites which is close but requires a shuttle ride. It’s 20% cheaper and is my only opportunity to meet the Marriott promotion for 2-stays to get a free night. In this case, it’s essentially worth a free night for me to stay at the Marriott, but I am not looking forward to the shuttle experience.

  3. TimmyD

    The shuttle scene was pretty bad at OHare this weekend and for me in particular the traffic of that airport and area surrounding meant that a taxi/Uber wouldn’t have done much better. However, it is worth reminding yourself that Uber is an option and there is an opportunity cost for wasting time on a free shuttle, especially when it’s late and not much traffic

  4. rjb

    If you ever try the “skip the shuttle” trick at IAD, the Uber drivers will cancel on you. They don’t want a $10 ride, they want to take you into DC for $60. When they call to ask you where your are going, you have to lie and tell them you are going to DC, then update the destination once you are in the car. Sucks for everybody.

  5. Rene

    For SFO, after trying numerous park/fly, hotels, parking garages, we found that parking at the Westin/Aloft lot and taking their shuttle which is a short 5-10 minute ride to the terminal.
    6 times we’ve done this and it’s been great, drivers very nice.
    And a very reasonable cost. But I’ve bailed and used Uber also in Chicago! Always bad experiences at ORD….

  6. Pingback: Why buy miles & points?, Free National Parks on Black Friday, Visa Checkout Free Night Promo - BaldThoughts

Got something to say?