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Jan 22

American Announces Chicago-New York Shuttle. Airline Geeks Geek-Out

Last week, American made the kind of announcement that generally gets passed over in the general news (mostly because it isn’t that important) but gets aerosexuals all hot and bothered. There’s a new shuttle coming!

The ORD-LGA Shuttle

american airlines shuttle

Because the one thing that will lead to fewer conflicts on planes is free alcohol…

In an announcement that listed a bunch of new routes for American Airlines, the carrier also noted the establishment of a shuttle service between Chicago and New York.*

And now things get interesting. American has traditionally been strong on east coast shuttles, thanks to its US Airways heritage, with shuttle services serving DC, New York and Boston. We’re no longer in the days when flight attendants hand out newspapers and planes roll out of the gate one after the other, but American has run pretty consistent service in the northeast.

Why Chicago Matters

Chicago is a very unusual city in that it has two major airlines that consider it a hub. It’s a big enough city that it can handle two airlines, and it’s central US location makes it a good place to connect flights. But United has always considered Chicago to belong to it and seen American as an interloper in its home. A shuttle to New York, with premium products and 15 daily frequencies, is a direct shot across the bow of the good ship United, who is already running flights hourly.

One other tidbit: There will be very little connecting traffic on these routes. Rather, it will be traffic that starts in one of the two cities and ends in the other.* That matters, because those flights are far more profitable. A flight that connects doesn’t make as much money, since passengers have a choice of where they can connect. For example, a customer flying from Boston to San Francisco and willing to take a connection could fly American and connect in Chicago, Dallas or even Charlotte. A Delta passenger could connect in Atlanta or Salt Lake City. Etc. Because that passenger has so many choices, they will go with the cheapest one. There are only so many non-stop flights, though, between two cities. Fewer choices means higher prices.

I expect to see some promotions pop up between the two cities, but those should be to the passengers’ benefit. Now, if only JetBlue were to get involved…


*Beginner’s Hint: Shuttle services are usually defined as regularly scheduled, frequent services between two major cities that usually have some sort of added amenities with them. They are set to appeal to business travelers who need to know that there is always availability to get from here to there, even if they have to pay up for it.

*Beginner’s Hint: Traffic that starts in one city and ends in another, with no switching of planes, is O&D, or origin and destination. For instance, the shuttle flights are O&D. A flight from San Francisco to New York that connects in Chicago would not be.


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