In 2017, Vonlane founder and chief executive officer Alex Danza put a plan in motion to offer discounted, fully refundable travel to MD Anderson patients en route to and from treatments. Since then, the luxury motor coach service has transported more than 1,000 MD Anderson patients from Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio. Plus, Vonlane contributes $20 for every 2,000 miles of patient travel to MD Anderson’s travel fund for patients in need.
“We started getting more and more unsolicited feedback from passengers undergoing treatment at MD Anderson, describing their positive experiences on our fleet,” says Danza, who established Vonlane in late 2014 with a Dallas-Houston connection and now oversees routes serving 25,000 passengers per month.
One day, he received a call from John Schweitzer, an MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors member who has been an avid Vonlane customer since its inception.
“He had an idea to make patients’ travel for cancer treatment easier, friendlier and more affordable,” says Danza. “It made perfect sense.”
Danza created the discount program, exclusive to MD Anderson, in partnership with the institution’s Patient Travel Services team to offer a flexible option when the effects of treatment make driving or flying less than feasible. Immune systems often are suppressed post-treatment, for example, making patients vulnerable to germs in airports and cabins with close quarters. Fatigue also can be a factor in their ability to drive and to navigate terminals.
In addition to a 15% reduction in fares, MD Anderson patients enjoy comfortable seats on a 22-passenger coach with an attendant onboard, plus amenities such as blankets, eye masks, Wi-Fi access and food and beverage service. Patients are dropped off at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Houston, approximately 4 miles from MD Anderson’s Texas Medical Center campus.
Less tangible benefits of the program are the freedom from depending on friends or family members to drive to and from appointments, and the peace of mind in knowing that, should plans change up to within an hour of a scheduled trip, they will receive a full refund with no cancellation fees.
The recent loss of a dear friend to breast cancer — an MD Anderson patient who often used the Vonlane service to and from treatments — reinforces Danza’s passion for growing the unique program.
“We’re honored to partner with MD Anderson,” he says. “Vonlane’s passenger-first culture ensures patients enjoy a comfortable, compassionate and affordable travel experience while in transit to and from treatment.”