Delta to Downsize Shuttle Operations

By | December 28, 2008
Marine Air Terminal in 1974
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Delta announced it would be phasing out full-sized jets on its shuttle routes between New York-Laguardia Airport and Washington-National Airport in March.

It will replace 148-seat MD-88 aircraft with 76-seat Embraer regional jets operated by Shuttle America, configured with 12 first class seats. Delta insists that otherwise, the product will remain the same. The MD-88 appears to be flying with too many empty seats in the middle of the day. At least the Embraer 170s are more comfortable than their smaller counterparts. Shuttle America currently operates the Chicago-LaGuardia Delta shuttle service.

We could understand them downgrading flights in the middle of the day, but for peak times in the morning and evening, the shuttle to Washington is often full. Some pundits attribute the loss in passengers to the other modes of transportation, as air travel on this routes is often delay-prone. Amtrak’s Acela train operates service from the heart of New York to the heart of Washington and Boston in less than 3 hours. The plane may take 45 minutes, but when you add in screening and transit times to the airport, it can take more than 3 hours. There is also the option of inexpensive bus service that includes wi-fi as well.

Delta will continue to use the MD-88s on their Boston shuttle routes, and USAirways, which operates a competing shuttle, has made no downsizing announcements and JetBlue, which operates 100-seat E190 regional jets, will be adding two extra Boston flights daily to a total of ten and two extra Washington flights to a total of seven in May, which is still less than the competition, and operates to different airports(Dulles and JFK instead of National and LaGuardia)

Meanwhile, Delta has rolled out GoGo Wi-fi Service, operated by AirCell on 5 of the MD-88s it uses for the service, some of which are still on the Washington routes. Starting in January, Delta will add the service to its 330 aircraft at a rate of about four per week. For Northwest aircraft, the process will likely begin late next year, after certification is complete.

Flat fees are $9.95 on flights of three hours or less, and $12.95 on flights of more than three hours. Delta is waving the fees for the rest of this year. But we wonder if $9.95 is worth it for the short shuttle flight.

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