I love the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia. It has history, charm, character and it is incredibly easy to get in and out of for the Shuttle flights Delta operates between New York and Chicago, Boston and Washington, DC. For the O/D business traveler the separate facility is a time saver and makes the trips that much easier, even if it doesn’t have a SkyClub. Starting on 2 November 2014 Delta will be taking the Boston Shuttle flights out of the Marine Air Terminal and moving them to Terminal C. As a NYC-based customer this makes me a bit sad. But looking at the bigger picture this move is likely a huge improvement for the carrier and for many of its passengers.
The press release announcing the move highlights a variety of reasons passengers should be happy. There is talk of the larger aircraft now serving the route (717s, an up-gauge from the E75s), in-seat power and a few other things which are mostly available today on the route (wifi, free drinks/snacks, shorter check-in cutoff time, etc.). But I think all of that is a distraction from the real reason for the move: Connectivity.
The current passenger flow for the Shuttle is very focused on the O/D market. And that’s great for those passengers. And those passengers are part of the market Delta is going for, but the Boston Shuttle has always been the weaker of the Shuttle markets and yet Delta is adding capacity. A lot of capacity, actually. The 34 additional seats on each flight – even with a decent number of them being middle seats – is a 44% bump in total seats on offer. And Delta doesn’t want them stopping in NYC.
The Boston market is a tough one for most airlines. Not quite big enough to support a hub but enough business traffic to support a lot of people flying to a lot of destinations reasonably often. And a lot of that traffic stays in the north-east and mid-Atlantic regions. JetBlue has made major inroads picking up business traffic and pretty much everyone else has lost. This shift in New York is Delta’s counter move. They’re going for Boston-based business traffic with frequent, easy connections in NYC.
Take a look at the routes Delta serves from LaGuardia. For most of these a connection form Boston in Atlanta, Minneapolis or Detroit is simply not going to work. But a quick, easy connection in LaGuardia just might be reasonable enough. Delta made a HUGE investment in the New York City market when they made the slot swap with US Airways around DCA. And, yes, most of that was focused on building up the O/D market at LaGuardia for a whole bunch of mid-sized business markets. But now that they have those markets established it is time to start feeding them. Hourly service in from Boston is going to be a nice chunk of that feed.
Of course, there are the ever-present risks of connecting at LaGuardia, including a highly congested air space, limited capacity for reroutes and delays which kick in when someone sneezes in Central Park. But from a passenger flow perspective the theoretical value of the Boston->LaGuardia->Everywhere routing is hard to beat. And Delta is going to do their best to grab that market.
As for those saying the shift makes this no longer a shuttle market, remember that it was only in 2008/2009 that the service was hourly on a dedicated MD-80 family sub-fleet with extra pitch; that transition to the E75s was completed in March 2009. Those planes also operated out of the Marine Air Terminal so there’s no reason that switching to the 717s would require also shifting to Terminal C. For the O/D market the key is the hourly frequency. That’s what keeps the business customers coming back. And the DC and Chicago markets have a dramatically lower number of connecting passengers; moving those out of the Marine Air Terminal would benefit no one.
But for the Boston flow this move makes a lot of sense. Even if it is a bit less desirable for the NYC-BOS commuters.
- New York/Washington slot swap approved
- The Delta Shuttle heads west: Hourly service between Los Angeles and San Francisco
- Delta shrinking the Shuttle
- Delta blinks; slashes fares on the Shuttle market
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