When Alexandros set out on a Megabus trip from New York City to Washington, D.C. last week, he had no way to know that he and his fellow passengers were in for seven and a half hours of roasting hot travel mayhem. The travel delay was understandable at first: there was apparently an accident on I-95, the standard Megabus route between the two cities. This might have been bearable if the bus had had functioning air conditioning. Or any air circulation at all. Or if the passengers had been allowed to board the new bus they had promised. Or if the driver had received valid directions to the spot where they were supposed to exchange their rolling sauna for a new bus that never came.
We spent seven and a half hours in sweltering heat after the bus air conditioning broke and had a driver who failed to communicate anything that was happening. There was clearly a ton of poor decisions made by whoever his superiors were which resulted in us stopping and turning around numerous times to switch buses– which we never did.
The bus left NY at around 10 (almost on time) and things seemed fine. A couple of hours later the air conditioner stopped working. At the same time we noticed we weren’t on I-95 like we should have been and finally after seeing a sign we realized I-95 was closed due to an accident.
The highway we were on moved at a snail’s pace and there were traffic lights every mile. This was no ones fault but it would have been nice if we had been notified that we were going to take a much slower route and would be arriving late. The traffic however, created the perfect storm of suffering when combined with the broken air conditioning.
After about an hour of no air conditioning the driver finally made an announcement confirming it and telling us we might switch buses. At that point we had been on the bus for about three hours and were nowhere near DC. The bus was extremely hot, especially on the top where I was (it was a double-decker bus). After crawling through traffic for a while longer the driver pulled over at a random part of the highway. People requested he open the doors so we could get air and he refused. Only after a woman repeatedly demanded the doors be open did he open them but he forbade us from getting off.
Passengers then began asking what was going on with the other bus to which the driver told us he “wasn’t authorized to tell us yet.” We sat waiting for another 10 minutes; many of us crouched around the door to get fresh air, before the bus pulled onto the highway. No word from the driver.
The driver proceeded to turn the bus in the opposite direction than we were heading. Still no word. Only another 15 minutes later and we were told the bus was going to a mall to switch buses and he had been given the wrong directions so we had passed it. By that point many of the passengers started calling Megabus expressing our outrage at the situation and trying to find out what exactly was going on. When I called they told me they knew nothing but would try to get me a refund.
Finally we got to the mall (at least 20 minutes in the opposite direction) and the driver pulled over and opened the doors. He still refused to say anything to us. Everyone got off the bus and started to take their luggage. We asked the Megabus employees who were there on the sidewalk helping us unload our bags what was going on and hey had no idea and told us to ask the driver. When the driver was asked, he told us these other people knew.
After standing outside the bus for 20 minutes the guys who helped us with our bags told us if we wanted to go to DC to get back on the bus. The same bus that had a broken AC and that we had made two stops and turned around in the opposite direction to get on another bus. We were given no explanation but we were nowhere near DC so we had no other choice but to get back on.
After getting back on, the bus was hotter than ever and must have been 90-100 degrees. There was no air circulation at all and many of us were sweating profusely. I was honestly worried about the health of passengers. We were kept in a hot bus for about five hours and there were numerous elderly passengers as well as kids.
After departing again on the same bus the driver still made no announcement. Whoever hadn’t called Megabus started calling now to complain. A passenger handed out sheets of paper and a pen for everyone to sign that she planned to fax to Megabus so that we all got refunds.
We continued to DC, luckily on I-95, which had reopened. The driver broke his silence once to yell at someone for using the front stairs of the bus but that was all. After a trip of 7 and half hours we got to DC.
To the surprise of many of us the driver apologized for what we had gone through but it was brief and no explanation was given. The traffic was one thing but the trip would have been nowhere near as long had we not stopped twice and turned around to get another bus that never came. Many of us were dazed and exhausted having been on the bus for so long in such hot conditions.
This would have been a much more humane experience if anyone had taken a minute here and there to explain to the passengers what was going to happen and why.
How to reach them, if the promised refunds don’t come through? Well, Megabus has a friendly Twitter presence.
MegaBus is a global brand, and the services are provided by different bus companies in different regions. For this route, contact Coach USA for intractable problems: another dissatisfied customer laid out his methods in this post.
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