Review: Delta’s “Upgraded” Boston-New York Shuttle Features Far Inferior Product

By | November 19, 2014

English: Shuttle America Embraer 175 N207JQ in...

The Delta Shuttle has always been promoted and priced as a premium product. Even though the product has declined over the years, it still retains some vestiges of its heyday. Free newspapers. Free wine or beer(sometimes). A bagel in the morning. The recent changes to the Boston-New York shuttle service, promoted in signage as “upgraded” move the service another few steps closer to Greyhound bus.

The Shuttle used to be an open seating, one-class product. It gradually migrated to the same three class service Delta has elsewhere(Economy, Economy Comfort…implying the lack of comfort in economy, and First)

Delta trumpets the great product features in this press release.  However, having flown on the old product fairly regularly, and having just flown on the new product, I cannot find a single way in which the product has improved, and see many ways in which it is now inferior.

Unchanged is the awful Logan experience. Passengers must pass through the same slow and crowded security line as all other Delta passengers.  There is no dedicated gate, and free newspapers are not available in the gate area, only on the jetway. There are a limited number placed out, such that by the time my section was called to board, there were no copies of the Wall Street Journal left. The boarding process placed me among the last to board.  I noticed no improvement with the switch to mainline employees from the Shuttle America employees who previously operated these flights.

Upon boarding, the plane is clearly larger. The seats, however are smaller. They are narrower and there seems to be significantly less under seat space.  I felt that there was less legroom as well, but the online sources I found do not confirm this. Delta has replaced the previous “open seating” policy with assigned seats. This created passenger confusion on the flights I was on, and people seemed generally unhappy with the change. The planes did have power at each seat, which, while nice, is not of particular importance on a flight that lasts all of 40 minutes.

On my early morning flight beverage service was limited to 4 choices “due to the short duration of the flight”.  The shuttle always has a short duration, and I recall happily sipping a coke on early morning shuttle flights in the past. This was an unwelcome surprise. In an odd gesture, on my Veteran’s Day flight, passengers were offered free chocolates to show Delta cares about our veterans.

Arriving at LaGuardia, it seemed that it was much further to taxi to Terminal C than to the wonderfully intimate Marine Air Terminal. It also is a significantly longer walk from gate to curb.  The additional time is important for a product that should be designed to get business travelers to their destinations as quickly as possible.

On the return trip, once again, the product was a downgrade.  First, the traffic into Terminal C was significantly worse than anything I have ever experienced into Marine Air. Unlike the dedicated security line at Marine Air, where I never had to wait, at Terminal C we were in line with passengers for dozens of other gates. The gate experience is not nearly as intimate or pleasant as Marine Air. Yes, the restaurants and opportunities to spend money seem fancier, but those are of no importance to me. The gate area itself was nice enough, though it feels a bit like a corral. Newspapers are available at the gate, as at Marine Air, and there is power at every comfortable seat.  Oddly, the US Air shuttle gates are directly opposite, and the flight announcements caused quite a bit of confusion.

Marine Air is a special place, a dedicated terminal, with a dedicated airport entrance, in a beautiful, historic building. The entry foyer, with its mural is a cathedral to a golden age of aviation. Delta has not only downgraded this product, but removed its soul. The shuttle is now just another opportunity to pay a lot of money to be treated like a product, not a person.