On April 4, American will begin shuttle service between New York LaGuardia (LGA) and Chicago O’Hare (ORD). It will be the fourth route to join American’s shuttle network out of LGA; the carrier plans to convert all of its routes out of LGA into Shuttle-branded services. The shuttle flights will be operated with Boeing 737-800s.
Shuttle service allows business passengers to make same-day return trips or adjust their return flight schedule easily if plans change. Shuttle fliers are given an array of amenities that others aren’t given. For example, those flying on shuttle services get separate check-in areas where they can check in for their flight as soon as 20 minutes before scheduled departure (25 minutes before departure at ORD); dedicated airport gates; and free alcoholic beverages, even in economy.
“It is something that is really designed to go and cater to the last-minute business traveler and make it as easy as possible for that person,” Vasu Raja, American’s vice president of network and schedule planning, said during a conference call Thursday.
“When you fly frequently for work, anything that can make the regular commute more comfortable is important,” Alison Taylor, American’s senior vice president for Global Sales and Distribution, said in a statement announcing the company’s Shuttle expansion. “That’s why we’re pleased to offer valuable time-saving opportunities with our Shuttle, including a convenient and consistent schedule and extended check-in times for you and your bag.”
“For the last 3-4 months we’ve actually been quietly operating [LGA-ORD] as if it were a shuttle without the branding [to ensure smooth operations when the service is officially rolled out in April],” said Raja. American is currently operating 15 daily flights between LaGuardia and O’Hare.
“The shuttle for us is a very specific product,” Raja continued, saying that there won’t be a frequency increase on the route. “It is a regular, recurrent schedule pattern. There are dedicated gates and dedicated check-in; [there is] free beer and wine as well. It caters to the last-minute business traveler and makes it as easy as possible for them. We’ve had a lot of demand [for an LGA-ORD shuttle] for a long time.”
Such service isn’t a novelty in the US. Airline shuttle services have been popular with business travelers, especially on the East Coast. Both American and Delta operate hourly or near-hourly services between New York LaGuardia and both Washington Reagan (DCA) and Boston Logan (BOS).
Delta has operated shuttle service between LaGuardia and O’Hare since 2010. Raja says that American’s move is not a response.
“Our network is based on long-term profitability,” Raja said. “This is not a competitive reaction by any means. “This is the first time we’re taking the shuttle product out of the Northeast corridor, and it gave us a lot of pause when we decided to do it.”
“Part of what we’re testing here is [whether the shuttle can work outside of the US Northeast],” Raja said. Potentially there could be other shuttle markets as well. We certainly daydream about that. The first step is making Chicago – LaGuardia as successful as it can be.”
American inherited its shuttle service from US Airways, with whom American merged in 2013. American currently operates shuttle services between LaGuardia, Boston and Washington Reagan.
Featured image by Oleg Belyakov via Wikimedia Commons