America West Airlines hopes a large number of East Valley winter visitors will be inclined to fly south for the season and ship their cars by rail using the company’s new East Coast transport partner.
The Tempe-based airline announced an agreement Monday with Autolog Corp., a New Jersey-based firm that says it can ship privatelyowned autos less expensively than trucking companies and for even less than it would cost to drive.
Autolog transports vehicles in a fully enclosed rail car on routes between the Minneapolis/St. Paul and Chicago metro areas and the Valley, and between the New York and Chicago metro areas and Arizona and California.
The deal struck between the two companies would give Autolog customers who fly America West within 30 days of their vehicle’s ship date a $25 discount on their auto transport return fare or 1,000 frequent flier miles, whichever they prefer.
America West said it is the only airline that provides daily, nonstop flights between the Valley and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Minneapolis/St. Paul where many winter visitors make their summer homes. The carrier flies to each market five times a day.
"There’s a potential for snowbirds to take advantage of this and we have good service between Minneapolis and Chicago and the Valley," said Janice Monahan, America West spokeswoman. "This is great opportunity and offer for anyone who doesn’t want to drive to have the convenience of flying and have their car delivered to them."
In February, in conjunction with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway, Autolog began offering its service locally. The company has a terminal in El Mirage where customers can pick up or drop off their cars for loading onto the car-trains. The vehicles are transported in 10-12 days.
For an additional fee, the company’s trucks will deliver it to the customer’s home.
"The snowbird market is absolutely staggering," said Myron Levine, Autolog president.
"And certainly with the baby boomers becoming a little bit older and getting closer to retirement, more and more of them are looking to have second homes in warm climates. In addition to that, you have a huge population that’s immigrating there all the time."
The company says its statistics show more than 250,000 people reside in northern cities in the summer and return to Arizona in the fall and winter.
Levine said transporting the car and flying is cheaper than driving when gas, tolls, motels and food are factored for what is likely a four-day trip.
"This way you can have your car and fly and, in literally three or four hours, you’re at your destination and if you ship your car with enough advanced notice, it’ll be there when you get there," he said.
The cost to ship a standard-sized car from the Chicago metro area terminal to the EL Mirage terminal is $520 one-way. For customers who want door-to-door service, add $145.
"The normal trucking company charges well in excess of $800," Levine said.
Autolog began transporting automobiles by truck in 1976.
The company operates more than 100 shipping terminals across the United States and in most major cities.