United Airlines to enter New York-Washington shuttle fray

Jan 17, 2020

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United Airlines is the new clocker between New York and Washington this spring, when it launches an hourly shuttle along the busy Northeast Corridor.

The Star Alliance carrier will offer departures on the hour, nearly every hour from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. between Newark Liberty (EWR) and Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA) airports beginning March 29, United said Friday. The Bombardier CRJ550, a 50-seat regional jet with 10 first-class seats, will operate 10 flights, and the Embraer E175 the remaining three frequencies.

Sarah Murphy, senior vice president of United Express at the airline, said the new hourly schedule is in response to customer demand for more frequent and comfortable flights in the market.

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United currently operates up to nine flights a day between Newark and Washington National, Cirium schedule data shows. The majority of those flights are operated with Embraer ERJ-145 regional jets, which have 50 seats in an all-economy layout.

The new shuttle means nearly 50% more seats overall between Newark and Washington National but, notably for business travelers and elite frequent fliers, a nearly four-fold jump in first class seats on the route.

(Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)
The first class cabin on United’s CRJ550. (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)


In addition, United claims that several closets onboard the CRJ550 eliminate the need for passengers to gate-check bags — a nuisance many travelers dislike.

(Photo by Zach Griff/TPG)
United claims these closets on the CRJ550 eliminate the need for passengers to gate-check bags. (Photo by Zach Griff/TPG)


Related: United plans new New York-Washington shuttle amid growth spurt

United’s new Newark-Washington shuttle schedule will not come without tradeoffs. The airline is sourcing the four slot pairs — one slot is needed for every takeoff or landing — necessary for the new flights by ending service between its former Cleveland (CLE) hub and Washington.

The change will leave American Airlines as the only airline flying nonstop between Cleveland and Washington National, Cirium schedules show.

In addition, operational challenges at Newark, particularly during the peak afternoon hours, could impact the reliability of United’s new hourly operation.

United also faces stiff competition in the New York-Washington shuttle market. Amtrak offers its popular Acela service between New York’s Penn Station and Washington Union Station, and American Airlines and Delta Air Lines fly shuttles between New York LaGuardia (LGA) and Washington National airports.

In addition to schedule, American and Delta’s shuttles offer some additional amenities, including dedicated airport check-in areas, and complimentary beer and wine inflight. American even offers rear-door deplaning to speed arrivals.

Related: Why does Washington’s Reagan National Airport have a ‘perimeter’?

United’s new Newark-Washington schedule is not the first shuttle on the route. Continental Airlines, which merged with United in 2010, offered a shuttle on the route in the 1980s and 1990s. And New York Air and People Express both operated their own shuttles before they merged with Continental in 1987.

An ad for Continental Airlines' "Super Shuttle" service between Newark and Washington in 1987. (Image by The Washington Post)
An ad for Continental Airlines’ “Super Shuttle” service between Newark and Washington in 1987. (Image by The Washington Post)


United plans to grow system capacity by 4-6% this year, executives have said. In addition to the new shuttle schedule, the carrier plans a number of other additions to its schedule including roughly 50 more departures at its Denver (DEN) hub, four new routes to Tokyo’s close-to-downtown Haneda airport (HND), and at least five new routes from its Washington Dulles (IAD) hub.

Featured image courtesy of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

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