SWVA charter bus operators return from D.C. rally



The owners of Sunshine Tours say since the governor order non-essential businesses to shut down, they haven’t had any revenue coming in, cancelled hundreds of tours and had to lay off more than 80 employees.

“There’s a real need for assistance to be aided to us. So that we can bring this back and get back on our feet and start back up. It would be really the only way that we can survive,” said Paul Nester, President of Sunshine Tours.

Kendra Flinchum is the tour coordinator for Sunshine tours. She says other travel industries have gotten help from the government, while they haven’t gotten anything.

“Here we are standing with hundreds of thousands of dollars that we owe people and congress is basically just saying sorry. We just really need help,” said Flinchum.

They are hoping that today’s rally of more than 500 buses stretching about 10 miles will inspire that to change.

“So we hope that congress will take initiative and make a package just for the motorcoach industry as they did airlines, cruiseships, amtrack. We are asking for roughly about 15 billion dollars,” Fulchim said.

Sunshine Tours Vice President Linda Taylor agreed.

“Although the government may think we’re non-essential, the people think we are. We think we are. And today a whole lot of people thought we were,” said Taylor

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – Abbott Bus Lines rolled out a bus from its yard on Mary Linda Avenue in Roanoke Wednesday morning to the nation’s capitol.

The company will be a part of rally in Washington D.C. that hopes to raise awareness on how the novel coronavirus has severely impacted the motorcoach industry.

“We wanted to participate. We need to have solidarity with all companies in the country,” says John Abbott, manager of Abbott Bus Lines.

The family-owned and operated business has been providing transportation to residents of southwest Virginia since 1927. The company often serves the needs of church organizations, military groups, and local schools.

Since the COVID-19 crisis began, business hasn’t been the same for them.

Abbott Bus Lines yard along Mary Linda Avenue in Roanoke.

All eighty of their buses have been parked in the company’s yard since mid-March, and due to a lack of business, management has had to lay-off over 100 bus operators and distribute over $300,000 in refunds to customers.

Abbott says the spring season is often their busiest time.

“The springtime is when we have lots of school field-trips and take lots of teams to play their games. It’s just a really busy time, but now there’s nothing,” says Abbott.

Abbott Bus Lines isn’t the only motorcoach business struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

On May 13, over 400 bus charter companies representing most of the 50 states will be driving through the streets of Washington D.C. The “Rolling for Awareness” rally is organized by the American Bus Association and the United Motorcoach Association.

The purpose of the event is to highlight the importance of the motorcoach industry and to ask both congressional and White House leaders to provide economic aid to companies, like Abbott Bus Lines, that are having hard times.

While trips have been cancelled for both spring and summer, the company is hoping to prevail and get back to serving its customers once the pandemic is over.

“We’re going to be here for our customers. That’s our commitment, and that’s why we do everything we do, is for our customers because without them, we wouldn’t have any business,” says Abbott.

The 3-hour rally is set to begin at 11 a.m. You can follow their track by following the hashtag #BusesMoveAmerica, #RollingForAwareness #DontMissOurBus and #R4A2020.


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