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Northeast Shuttles Facing Hard Times  
User currently offlineSTT757 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 16892 posts, RR: 51
Posted (11 years 6 months 3 weeks 14 hours ago) and read 2672 times:

From May 10th's NY Times Business Section http://www.nytimes.com

"Shuttle Services Facing Hard Times
By EDWARD WONG


Airlines operating East Coast shuttles have traditionally courted travelers with all the zeal of a lovesick bachelor. They hand out free magazines, provide express check-in and sometimes shower frequent fliers with triple miles.

What is occasionally missing these days, though, are the planes.

Falling demand has prompted Delta Air Lines and US Airways to scale back their hourly weekday schedules for the first time in the decade that they have offered shuttle flights between Boston, New York and Washington. The first time, that is, other than immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Now, travelers sometimes must wait up to two hours for a flight. And though the airlines say that they still keep planes standing by to handle overflow crowds, Delta recently watered down its shuttle guarantee: passengers denied a seat because of overbooking are promised another flight within a half-hour, rather than 15 minutes.

On US Airways, meanwhile, economy-class passengers on some shuttle flights will lose three inches of legroom next month, as the airline begins using planes with first-class cabins that squeeze space in coach.

All this may signal the end of the golden age of the East Coast shuttles, a travel mainstay since Eastern Airlines, now defunct, first began running such flights in 1961. The airlines offering shuttle service, the passengers flying them and the amenities on board have changed over the years. But the shuttles' schedules and reliability generally stayed consistent. And during boom years, they have been among their operators' most profitable flights.

These days, though, shuttles with pared-down service have to compete for businesspeople who are migrating to tele- and video-conferencing and to Amtrak trains. For some loyal fliers, the attraction of the shuttles could be wearing thin.

"They should keep this concept of it being like a train," said John Shirey, a product manager for a credit card processing company who was waiting at La Guardia Airport on Wednesday evening for a US Airways shuttle to Boston. "If there's a seat when you show up, you get on. Taking out some flights during the day bothers me."

Kevin Joyce, an investment banker who was catching a shuttle to Washington that day at Logan Airport in Boston, agreed. "It's not as good as it used to be," he said. "Before, you could finish up your meeting and show up at the airport and never be more than 20 or 30 minutes from the next flight."

Delta and US Airways say they intend to return to hourly schedules next month. But they could drop those plans if travelers stay grounded. US Airways had said it would restore flights on May 3, but decided to extend its cutbacks.

The number of shuttle passengers has plummeted since 2000. About 380,000 people flew on Delta and US Airways shuttles in the first two months of this year, down 29 percent from the period three years ago, according to the government's Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

In April, Delta and US Airways cut weekday shuttle schedules as much as 25 percent. US Airways trimmed to 12, from 15, the number of daily flights on its New York-Boston and New York-Washington routes, eliminating departures at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The airline cut its Washington-Boston weekday schedule to 12 daily flights by taking out two morning departures each way.

Delta began running shuttle flights every two hours rather than every hour from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and Sundays to and from New York. (Delta's Washington-Boston service is not a shuttle operation.)

The oversupply of shuttle seats worsened in October when American Airlines, a unit of AMR, started its own shuttle flights serving the same three cities, though it uses smaller regional jets and offers fewer flights than the other airlines. American flew 34,300 passengers on its New York-Washington and New York-Boston shuttles in the first two months of the year.

"I think the shuttle market is ripe for a rethink, but the airlines are not good at rethinking," said Joe Brancatelli, an advocate for business travelers who writes an Internet column. "So they just cut back on service, and this makes people angry."

Services Facing Hard Times
(Page 2 of 2)



Stacy Ehrlich, a lawyer from Washington, said she and a colleague showed up at La Guardia Airport on Tuesday afternoon to catch the 3:30 Delta shuttle from New York to Boston, only to find it had been cut from the schedule. They decided to take the 2:30 flight, even though her colleague needed to participate in a conference call at 2 p.m. He used his cellphone for the call as he boarded the plane, she said. "We kept asking, `What happened to the 3:30?' " Ms. Ehrlich said. "We just assumed the flights ran every hour.


Even before April, the airlines had been canceling an increasing number of shuttle flights, though they did not make wholesale changes to their weekday schedules. In the first two months of this year, Delta had 1,498 departures and US Airways 1,490 departures on the New York-Washington route, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. For Delta, that was a 19 percent drop from 2001 levels; for US Airways, it represented a 16 percent drop.

Amy Kudwa, a spokeswoman for US Airways, attributed the decline at her airline to the elimination of 6 a.m. departures from the weekend schedule and to bad weather one weekend in February. Catherine Stengel, a Delta spokeswoman, said that after Sept. 11, Delta began canceling more weekend flights because traffic was less "robust."

Mike Bell, Delta's vice president for schedule planning, said that Delta was trying to manage overcapacity by switching all its shuttle flights from Boeing 737-800 aircraft, which mostly have 155 seats, to 737-300's, which have 120 seats.

"There's always concern any time you roll back service," he said. "You're concerned about failing to capture your customers."

US Airways is also switching some of its shuttle operation to 737-300's, but in a manner that will leave many passengers with less legroom. Starting in June, it will use the two-cabin aircraft on its Washington-Boston route, Ms. Kudwa said, instead of single-cabin Airbus A-319's. The 737's will have a dozen first-class seats with three more inches of legroom than in coach class in the Airbus jets; the 114 economy-class seats will have three inches less.

"It's unfortunate they're going to get more crowded," said Eric Anderson, a six-foot computer networking consultant from Maine who was catching a shuttle from New York to Boston on Wednesday.

Both Delta and US Airways have policies aimed at ensuring that any traveler who arrives at a shuttle gate shortly before departure will get on a flight promptly.

Since September, US Airways has promised that shuttle passengers who arrive at the gate within 10 minutes of a scheduled departure and cannot get on the flight will be put on a plane within a half-hour or receive a $200 travel voucher.

Until recently, Delta had a more generous policy. If a passenger arrived within five minutes of departure and was denied a seat, Delta would put the passenger on a backup plane within 15 minutes or provide a free one-way shuttle ticket. In March, Delta stretched the wait to 30 minutes and said the guarantee applied only on nonholiday weekdays.

Problems from overbooking are now made worse by the cutbacks in departure schedules. If no backup planes are available, lines for later flights can stretch to hundreds of people when there is a gap of two hours between departures. At some points in the last month, shuttle terminals at La Guardia and Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington have resembled refugee camps for the laptop-and-cellphone set.

Even outside of those chaotic times, shuttle loyalists have bristled at the increasingly cramped flights during rush hours.

The schedule cutbacks "make it more crowded in the late afternoon, early evening hours, like now," said Michael Hennelly, a publicist at an association of copper manufacturing companies, as he stepped off a Delta shuttle at La Guardia on Wednesday evening. "It'll be easier when they add more flights back."

Outside the terminal, Mr. Hennelly joined a long line of men and women in dark suits waiting for cabs. The sun slipped low, and some of the last shuttle jets of the day lifted off over Flushing Bay. There were fewer and fewer of them traversing the skies."


http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2003/05/10/business/10AIR184.jpg

"Airlines are cutting back shuttle service out of La Guardia, leading to potential disruptions for passengers like Matthew Kelly."




Eastern Air lines flt # 701, EWR-MCO Boeing 757
25 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineChrisNH From United States of America, joined Jun 1999, 4149 posts, RR: 2
Reply 1, posted (11 years 6 months 3 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 2621 times:

I remember the 'Good Old Days' when Eastern had A300s on the BOS-LGA route...and they DID have a spare A300 sitting by for an extra section when needed (which, because the A300 had 200+ seats, was rarely).

Chris in NH


User currently offlineDeltAirlines From United States of America, joined May 1999, 8912 posts, RR: 12
Reply 2, posted (11 years 6 months 3 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 2560 times:

I'm surprised Amtrak's Acela was not mentioned. I tried this a few months ago to go from Boston to New York, and I was very impressed. The seats are quite comfortable, you can walk around, go to the cafe car, etc. You also don't have to deal with the hassels of BOS or LGA, as you go straight from South Station (which can be annoying to get to) or Back Bay Station straight to Penn Station, with no security hassels, check-in, etc. Just show up 10 minutes before the train, and you're all set. You also get miles on Continental for the trip (500 miles each way for J class, 750 for F), which is a great perk as well.

As for the DCA-BOS run, when do the 733s come on board? I just booked myself on DCA-BOS on US Airways Shuttle, and they still had the A319s on schedule (this is on the 1st of June).

Jeff


User currently offlineDutchjet From Netherlands, joined Oct 2000, 7864 posts, RR: 57
Reply 3, posted (11 years 6 months 3 weeks 4 hours ago) and read 2563 times:

Thanks for the article, very interesting stuff.........the shuttle, in the past, was always a major profit center for the airlines, big fares for short flights due to convenience, now that the flights are less convenient, the future of the shuttle is in question. I think that DL and US need to take a "Southwest Airlines" approach to the routes......very frequent departures with lower fares.
The cut in number of departures is not the answer.

I wonder if JetBlue is looking at this situation and if they have any interest in starting BOS-JFK-IAD, I realize that business travelers demand service in and out of conveneient LGA and DCA (instead of JFK and IAD), but who knows how the market could shift. JFK had almost no domestic short haul service until Jet Blue came in and changed everything......no one was interested in traveling out to JFK until there was a reason to go.

I did not know about the DL 738/733 swap for the shuttle.....will these aircraft get new interiors with a shuttle configuration?

And, on the US 733s doing the shuttle, will the first class cabin be used.....ie, will the first pax to board grab the first class seats, will they be assigned to high mileage frequent flyers, or will the first class cabin be blocked off?


User currently offlineUsairways85 From United States of America, joined Nov 2001, 3463 posts, RR: 7
Reply 4, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 2443 times:

I thought US was only going to run 319's on the shuttle and replace the 320 shuttles with 319 mainline aircraft.

User currently offlineTango-Bravo From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 3806 posts, RR: 29
Reply 5, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 2415 times:

If the "full-service" U.S. airline cartel excels at anything, it's breaking what didn't need to be fixed (the opposite of "if it's not broke don't fix it"). So goes the Shuttle.

User currently offlinePSU.DTW.SCE From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 7708 posts, RR: 27
Reply 6, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 2397 times:

DL's is changing things up

732's have come off DL Express to go to mainline to fill that gap between the CRJ and MD-80. Makes up for capacity lost by the 727 retirement.
757's coming off mainline for Song
738's coming off the shuttle to replace the 757's taken away from mainline
733's go on to shuttle

This is all in a generalization. 738's do not make sense on the shuttle routes. Same goes for the A319/A320. These aircraft are capable of flying transcons and the range is not needed on these short routes. The full performance and attributed savings is not realized on these short hops. It is better to run an aircraft like the 733.


User currently offlineGigneil From United States of America, joined Nov 2002, 16347 posts, RR: 85
Reply 7, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 2314 times:

They added the more modern aircraft to secure lower noise budgets and get earlier/later departures from DCA.

And back in the day... those 150 seat planes were packed full, so it made perfect sense to operate them.

Now that the market has changed, it may make less sense, yes.


N


User currently offlineSrbmod From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 2286 times:

What needs to be changed is the fares. The cheapest fares on the DCA-LGA route are as followed:
For 6/3/03 departure /6/4/03 return:
Delta Shuttle: $236.00 RT
US Airways Shuttle: $237.50 RT
American: $268.50 RT

Now for the alternative:
Amtrak (Acela Service): $294.00 RT

If the airlines really want to put butts in the seats, they need to lower the fares, not cut service. Drop the fare down to the $175-$200 range, and that may bring some fliers back. What would light a fire under their butts would be if a LCC managed to get enough slots @ DCA and LGA to operate a similar service.


User currently offlineFLAIRPORT From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 2266 times:

the reason for the 738's and A321's is for confert for the passenger, that was shuttles main focus... fo example, DL showed a "Shuttle Show" to go with a "Shuttle Snack" it was just for class

User currently offlineConcordeBoy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 2255 times:

What would light a fire under their butts would be if a LCC managed to get enough slots @ DCA and LGA to operate a similar service

One wonders how any carrier foolishenough to attempt such action could be called "low cost"  Big grin


User currently offlineGigneil From United States of America, joined Nov 2002, 16347 posts, RR: 85
Reply 11, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 2238 times:

Heheh yeah. While Frontier is doing very well at DCA, and I'm sure that Airtran will also do great from there, operating DCA-LGA is something that probably just can't be done low cost.

N


User currently offlineExusair From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 684 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 2208 times:

Drop the fares?

Is the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority dropping their rent of $250/sq ft per month?

Dropping fares is not stimulating demand. The fare used to be $157.00 each way. The problems are the midday flights, and weekend flights going out empty.

The redeployment of a/c hasn't helped either. There are no spares to run extra sections.

I'm for the use of smaller a/c on the routes, 737-300's from the -800's or the 319/320's. Provided the fleet is entirely one type and there are ample a/c available for extra sections and use as spares.

Are Shuttle a/c still being used for special flying on weekends (NYC/BOS-MCO/TPA)?


User currently offlineRayChuang From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 8030 posts, RR: 5
Reply 13, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 2202 times:

While Amtrak's new Acela service is great, the pretty high round trip cost of US$294 per person, plus the facts Acela equipment is still experiencing quite a lot of mechanical problems and the iffy future of Amtrak funding could cause Amtrak to not live up to the promises of that service.  Sad

User currently offlineSTT757 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 16892 posts, RR: 51
Reply 14, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 2198 times:

Amtrak has $99 fares between NY and BOS.

http://amtrak.com/press/atk20030422052.html



Eastern Air lines flt # 701, EWR-MCO Boeing 757
User currently offlineLuv2fly From United States of America, joined May 2003, 12148 posts, RR: 49
Reply 15, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 6 days ago) and read 2123 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

I also think the hassle factor is another reason, security takes longer to get through. And on the train you can use your own cell phone. Also no airline employee ever shows any gratitude for you flying them, so why give your money to them when you have a choice like the train.

 Big grin



You can cut the irony with a knife
User currently offlineStretch 8 From United States of America, joined May 1999, 2568 posts, RR: 16
Reply 16, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 2107 times:

So, if USAir is switching the Boston-National flights to a 2 class 733, how do you get into the F cabin?

Iw ould be very pissed off if I were paying for an expensive shuttle ticket and not getting into the F section. Usual voodoo upgrade rules appying?



Maggs swings, it's a drive deep to left! The Tigers are going to the World Series!!!
User currently offlineExusair From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 684 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 2057 times:

"Also no airline employee ever shows any gratitude for flying them."

Have you ever rode Amtrak buddy? Ask one of the ticket agents in Union Station in DC about a schedule. See if they don't start acting crazy or snarl at you like they've done to me in the past.

"Security is a hassle"

When was the last time you flew? Few lines, if any to go through security queues and the lines move quick. Flights randomly selected for secondary security checks. I don't find the process intrusive.

I think the train is nice if your schedule permits such trips. But the clientele on the shuttles are have hardly enough time to blow 4-6 hrs on train rides. Besides, who want's to wake up and get on a train, if there is one at 5 am for a 10:00 meeting?


User currently offlineLuv2fly From United States of America, joined May 2003, 12148 posts, RR: 49
Reply 18, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 2045 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Exusair you might want to check out post #3 as I am not the only one that feels this way. Also The length of time the trains take is way less than what you are quoting.


You can cut the irony with a knife
User currently offlineExusair From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 684 posts, RR: 0
Reply 19, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 2027 times:

DC-NYC took me close to 4 hrs. That was with the new tracks that Acela runs on. NYC-BOS takes a little longer.

The post I am replying to implies that Airline Customer Service Agents are to blame as well as the perceived security hassles.

I replied to post #3 previously. The idea of lowering the fares and having more frequent service. I do not support this idea since the fares are already in the toilet and lowering them would not increase traffic.

The Shuttles do not have an elasticity like some markets. The shuttle clientele have some of the highest average earnings of any passenger demographic. A $20 price difference is not going to make these people swarm to the Shuttle.

UN functions. Spring Break. WTO, IMF, and end of week lobbyists and politicos returning home cause Shuttle loads. Not Orbitz.com one day only sales.

The Shuttles are competing with each other. FF programs and perks on the ground and in the air are what drives customers to either US, DL, AA or CO to EWR.

As for whether Shuttles to IAD/JFK/BOS would work. US tried this before between the cities and LGA. They're back in DCA now, wonder why.....The market is downtown centers, not IAD with a 40 minute ride in a cab. Or JFK with a 1 hour, no traffic ride. These guys aren't going to take the bus to the train at JFK. Can you picture Alan Greenspan riding Mass Transit? It's bad enough that he has to take the shuttle....


User currently offlineSTT757 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 16892 posts, RR: 51
Reply 20, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 2019 times:

There are no "new" tracks between NYC and DC, and the NYC-DC trip takes less than 3 hours (more like 2.5).

I took a Regional train to Boston from Metro Park NJ in January and that trip was 4 hours.

You must not have been on a Acela Express or Metroliner, and your train must have been delayed.



Eastern Air lines flt # 701, EWR-MCO Boeing 757
User currently offlineExusair From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 684 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 2013 times:

New Track:

Amtrak spent over $1 billion on track upgrades for the Acela train to get to it's design speed. NYC-WAS was redone fully. The last I heard, perhaps 1 - 1 1/2 year ago was that NYC-BOS wasn't complete.

Trains:

The train I took was not an Acela or Metroliner. It was the next available train at the time and was a standard train. It took over 3 hrs. We were late arriving in NYC, though we left DC on time.

Acela takes just under 3 hrs.

Metroliner takes 3 hrs.

Regular Amtrak trains over 3 hrs.

A quick look at Amtrak schedules reveals 33 trains between WAS-NYC. Of which Acela had 11. Metroliner 6. Regular Amtrak 16 trains. There are more regular, slower trains than there are Acela trains readily available.

Besides. DL conducted a test between the train and the shuttle. Who would get to downtown NYC from WAS faster. The Shuttle passengers handily beat the train passengers during peak travel times.


User currently offlineSTT757 From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 16892 posts, RR: 51
Reply 22, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 1998 times:

The tracks between NY and DC are vintage PRR, almost 70 years old. Amtrak wants to replace them and the overhead catenary as well as their poles but Congress has yet to appropriate the money.

The "newest" upgrades were to string wire with constant tension catenary between New Haven CT and Boston in anticipation of Acela service, the new electrified territories is where Acela runs at 150MPH.

Amtrak Metroliners run NYC-DC in 3 hours flat, Acela Express runs NY-DC in 2 hours 40 minutes.

Weather is not a factor, and the comfort level cannot be compared.

The train I took to Boston offered "First Class" service, I booked me and my Girlfriend in a Viewliner roomette. It had a tv, bathroom, and two (bunk) beds. Plus great windows. The whole sleeping car was occupied by "business" travelers, the sleepers offer showers and everybody was ready for the mornings business.

They changed the schedule and name from Twilight Shoreliner to the "Federal", it offers better departure and arrival times as well as First class (sleeper) passengers have the oppurtunity to board the train and relax in their rooms 1 hour before departure.

http://amtrak.com/trains/thefederal.html

It departs Boston at 10Pm (sleeping car passengers can board at 9PM) and arrives in DC at 7:30Am.




Eastern Air lines flt # 701, EWR-MCO Boeing 757
User currently offlineLuv2fly From United States of America, joined May 2003, 12148 posts, RR: 49
Reply 23, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 1992 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Perceived security hassles, like turn on and un pack your lap top, turn off your cell phone, empty your pockets, take off your watch, belt, coat, shoes, bend over and cough.


You can cut the irony with a knife
User currently offlineExusair From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 684 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 1990 times:

Roomette with a bed and a shower and your girlfriend with you too.......Sounds a hell of a lot nicer than a quicky in an a/c lav.

Nice digs. I thought that they had done something with the tracks. I do know that $1 billion was spent, and that only part of the sector had been upgraded.

You like the train. I work on the plane. More people fly than ride. God knows how many drive.

Did you know that Amtrak generates it's own power for the Northeast Corridor? Did you know that Amtrak had a plan in place to sell it's "excess" power generated to the municiplaities along the Northeast Corridor and that plan alone would make Amtrak solvent? Congressional commitees killed that plan though. They constantly berate Amtrak for being a federal basketcase, yet when Amtrak announces schedule cuts, and a particular community in a particular congressional district is targeted, Congress is all for the subsidies, so long as that community still receives service.



User currently offlineFlyboy7974 From United States of America, joined Jan 2003, 1540 posts, RR: 2
Reply 25, posted (11 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 1937 times:

a friend of mine lives out in the high desert of california where delta had parked a lot of their 737-300 after 9/11, and just recently he was noticing that most of them were being flown out, and we couldn't figure out why. this explains it, the delta move of the 757 to song, the 737-800 move from shuttle to mainline to replace the 757, 737-300 out of the desert for shuttle ops, and the -200 back into mainline for capacity until from what i hear, more crj700 equip arrives.

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