American Airlines Retires “Shuttle” Product, Will No Longer Fly Boston – New York LaGuardia

The American Airlines Shuttle was the descendent of the Eastern Shuttle, which was sold to Donald Trump in 1989 (“Trump Shuttle”). The product was often known for hourly flights between New York, Boston and Washington DC, with flexible ticketing policies and open seating – and at one point a guarantee of transportation where Eastern would even bring out a new aircraft to accommodate overflow passengers.

Eventually banks, led by Citigroup, took the Trump Shuttle back and sold 40% of it to US Airways along with a 10-year operating agreement starting in 1992. They purchased the remaining stake in 1997.

After America West management took over US Airways they stopped operating the Shuttle as an airline-within-an-airline. They stopped operating an all-coach subfleet of aircraft with its own livery. And when US Airways management took over American, the shuttle became an American Airlines product.

American is replacing the ‘Shuttle’ product in a couple of ways. Starting this summer:

  • They’re ending New York LaGuardia – Boston service. This route will be operated entirely by their partner JetBlue.

  • They’re introducing traditional Shuttle-like fares in a number of markets: New York LaGuardia – Washington National, Boston – Washington National, New York LaGuardia – Chicago, Dallas – Chicago, and Dallas – Los Angeles. These “Main Select” fares will be refundable, bundling priority boarding and check-in, free seat assignments for any coach seat (including extra legroom) and free same-day confirmed changes.

As American explained to employees in an internal communication this morning,

American’s shuttle flights no longer came with the same flexibility that shuttle flights used to offer, though there were dedicated airport desks. These fares of course won’t come with reduced check-in times, and gone with this change are reduced bag check-in cutoffs. And both New York LaGuardia and Washington National have renovated to be longer walks from curb through security and onto the gate.

Let’s take a moment for the shuttle product which began 60 years ago, in April 1961. The competing Delta shuttle originated with Frank Lorenzo’s New York Air which was sold to Pan Am. (Lorenzo sold New York Air as a condition of Department of Justice approval of his acquisition of Eastern Airlines.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Some airline will figure out business travel at some point. DL seemed to have it pre-Covid. Looks like it’s up for grabs again. AA clearly doesn’t want it.

  2. The old Delta shuttle was the dream of aviation. Airport close to the city, pull up, buy ticket (for a fixed price — $90 was what I used to pay with a corporate discount), clear security in 5 minutes, walk down the ramp, grab a newspaper and magazine, get handed a bagel and get on the plane. Land in Boston 45 minutes later.

    If you arrived a bit early at Terminal A, you could go to the other side of the round hall where there was a real family owned New York deli / sandwich shop where the ham and turkey for the sandwiches were homemade.

  3. Delta has long had a revenue premium both at the average fare and total local revenue in the Shuttle markets with their biggest strength from BOS.
    AA/B6 are clearly trying to figure out how to get the benefits that Delta has with the lower costs than AA that JetBlue can offer.
    The Shuttle issue is part of the larger question of what AA/B6 can gain from the NEA and what will Delta hold onto and potentially grow as it still is able to present itself as a single global brand.
    It is also worth noting that Delta’s capacity share in BOS is growing and will continue to grow as B6 shifts resources to NYC so that AA/B6 – where they cooperate – still ends up #3 behind DL and UA.
    and let’s not forget that the NEA is being challenged by the DOJ. It is doubtful that the DOJ isn’t taking notes on the benefits that AA/B6 are gaining which the DOJ doesn’t like; either they act to limit it or require retroactive changes. AA/B6 are pushing forward as long and fast as they can but that there will be a big * until the DOJ let’s it go – which will hurt their ability to attract business.

  4. Delta Shuttle also had the guarantee of transportation where Delta would even bring out a new aircraft to accommodate overflow passengers. It even had it into the Clinton-Gore Administration years.

  5. Delta Shuttle also had the guarantee of transportation where Delta would even bring out a new aircraft to accommodate overflow passengers. It even had it into the Clinton-Gore Administration years.

    What I miss most about the USAir Shuttle and Delta Shuttle was the very good selection of magazines and newspapers that they used to have at LGA especially. That and the Delta Bloomberg terminal for free use.

  6. These airline “shuttles” have long been marginal at best. And they’ve been consistently downgauged over the years. Given all of the security hassles, taxi rides, etc. Amtrak offers a far superior experience (among other things, the seats are orders of magnitude more comfortable) to any airline, especially if one wants to go from downtown to downtown or from an intermediate station such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Providence.

  7. I flew the Eastern Shuttle between LGA and BOS a few times when I was in college and later in the service. The entire business model is completely incompatible with the post 9/11 world. I would board a 727, an Electra, or, one time, a Connie, and they had no idea who I was. It was a matter of showing up and getting on the plane. They took payment in any form – credit card, check or cash. I had no checking account or credit card but I could fly Eastern Shuttle.

  8. Amtrak, in particular Acela Express, has over time done a real number on the air shuttle business in the Northeast. Work space on the train, work TIME on the train, or just read, relax, or doze. Acela Express trains have a first class car with meals and drinks included, including liquor, wine and beer. Fares are lower and the point to point travel time is about the same. About the only place where the air shuttle is competitive any more is Washington to Boston nonstop; to or from any intermediate point, including New York, the train is far superior.

  9. Pan Am did not purchase its shuttle from New York Air. The carrier started its own service (operating on the half-hour) as a competitor to EA’s shuttle service, which operated on the hour. Delta acquired the Pan Am Shuttle as part of its acquisition of PA.

  10. It’s always sad to see these innovations of aviation’s golden age disappear.
    The truth is if train travel ever got close to the scale and sheer size of government subsidies close to what aviation has received there would be even more effective true high speed train travel throughout the entire North East. It would be better for the traveler and the environment. Launching all that 3 martini fat and aluminum into the sky only to bring it back down again 30 minutes later makes absolutely no sense.
    Oh and AA kept the Bloomberg terminals for a few years in the lounges even through bankruptcy till US Air mgn axed them.

  11. @John – to be precise pan am purchased new york air’s takeoff and landing slots at dca and lga, and new york air gates at the marine air terminal and used those new york air shuttle assets for its shuttle

  12. American Shuttle fell apart under USAirways when they disbanded the airline that operated the flights (and the dedicated FAs that knew passengers by name). The shuttle then became an overpriced joke, with nothing more than free beer and wine as a consolation and no backup sections and scrunched up seats, foregoing the 34 inches+ of pitch in an all coach cabin. Now with the longer curb-to-gate times at LGA, the Acela is even more the way to go, especially when there’s even a hint of bad weather or ATC delays. The product was perfect last century and cannot fulfill its mission in this one, partly due to the times and due to the lack of understanding of the operator on why passengers paid a premium for the business model. Good riddance! The value proposition evaporated decades ago.

  13. While I agree with the prior comment, I’ve made a couple of small edits so that the conclusion can apply to AA globally.

    The product cannot fulfill its mission idue to the lack of understanding of the operator on why passengers paid a premium for the business model.

  14. Delta might as well get rid of theirs. The product is indistinguishable from any other flight. They’re not exactly pulling out extra sections or letting people pay with cash on board.

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