Delta Air Lines is bringing their Shuttle service to the west coast, increasing frequencies between Los Angeles and San Francisco at the beginning of September to an hourly operation from 7am. The new service, with 14 daily flights between the two airports in each direction, will be operated on 76-seat Embraer E75 jets with both first class and economy class service (and Economy Comfort, too). The flights will also feature other features of the Shuttle services which Delta currently offers on the east coast from their hub at New York’s LaGuardia airport.
Passengers on the new Shuttle flights will seem a better set of in-flight amenities compared to the regular Delta offerings. Starting with a dedicated check-in area at the airport and gates closer to the security checkpoint to reduce time spent in the airports the entire experience will be about easing the business traveler experience on the short flights between the major west coast cities. Also available on board will be complimentary onboard snacks provided by LYFE Kitchen and complimentary beverages in-flight including Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. craft beer, Starbucks coffee and wine from Wente Vineyards in all classes of service. Passenger will also receive complimentary newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the Financial Times. Upgrades for SkyMiles Medallion members will be available under the typical program rules.
The Los Angeles-San Francisco market is a very competitive one. United Airlines (15x daily), American Airlines (6x daily), Virgin America (9x daily) and Southwest Airlines (14x daily) also fly the route, plus many flights from smaller airports in the LA area and to both Oakland and San Jose. Delta currently operates the route 11x daily now on a mix or regional jets.
The Shuttle designation on the route is a change which affects both the type of service and the expectations for customers more than just the flight frequencies. The idea is to make it a consistent, slightly upgraded product which will appeal to higher fare business customers. The United Airlines offering is more frequent but less consistent, with different aircraft types and more variety in the departure times, plus no free snacks. Southwest has similar timing but no assigned seats nor upgrades, two things Delta specifically called out in their press release on the topic. Virgin American doesn’t offer complimentary upgrades to first class and American Airlines has half as many frequencies. In short, Delta is trying to mix the best combination of flight times and in-flight amenities in order to shift customer loyalty.
Delta is not the first to try such an approach but they are the latest iteration. It remains to be seen how successful the effort will be. With so much more competition on the route the walk-up fares are rather lower than in the east coast Shuttle markets (~$200ish each way versus $300ish on LGA-ORD or $420ish on LGA-DCA/BOS). That could ultimately hurt the chances for success on the west coast version.
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