The Economics of Flying vs Driving (Seattle, Vancouver)
August 18, 2018
Author: Bianca Yang
I recently took a flight from Seattle to Vancouver. The total travel time and cost for the flight was as follows:
- 30 min from my office to my hotel to get my bags.
- 1 hr from my hotel to SEATAC.
- 2 hrs in the gate before boarding.
- 30 min flight.
- 1 hour post-landing processing. Total time: 5 hours Cost of plane ticket: $300 - $500 Cost of Lyft: $35 - $55 Total Cost: $335 - $555 Probability of an accident: 1 in 11 million (negligible)
Contrast this with the total cost and travel time if I was to drive from Seattle to Vancouver. Total Time: 2 hr 30 min - 3hr 3 min driving time Total Distance: 230 - 240 miles Cost of gas (30 mpg, $3/gallon): $24 Probability of an accident: 1 in 447,000 / mile (negligible)
The cost of driving absolutely beats the cost of flying in this case. You also get no productivity gains from flying. You save 2 hours when driving, which is probably the amount of time you could be productive while at the airport.
This is definitely not the case when looking at traveling between cities like San Diego and Seattle or even SF and LA. At some point, the distance between cities necessitates that you upgrade to a more powerful mode of transportation, just as you eventually need to upgrade from walking to biking to driving around your city.