United plans new New York-Washington shuttle amid growth spurt

Oct 25, 2019

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United Airlines is jumping into the lucrative New York air shuttle market with an expanded service to Washington that will begin next spring.

The Star Alliance carrier will offer up to 13 daily flights between its Newark Liberty (EWR) hub and Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA), United commercial chief Andrew Nocella said Friday at the airline’s media day in Chicago. The service will be flown with either Bombardier CRJ550s with 50 seats or Embraer 175s with 76 seats. Both aircraft offer first class and economy.

“It’s about the convenience of an hourly pattern,” said Nocella when asked if United would offer any other shuttle amenities, including complimentary beer and wine, or free changes to other flights.

Rear-door deplaning, a traditional shuttle feature still offered on the American Airlines Shuttle, will not be offered on United’s new service, he said.

Related: Why the American Airlines Shuttle continues the ‘tradition’ of rear-door deplaning

A United Express Embraer 175 in the airline's new look at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. (Photo by Edward Russell/TPG)
A United Express Embraer 175 in the airline’s new look at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. (Photo by Edward Russell/TPG)


United is the latest airline to jump into the New York shuttle market. American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have long offered shuttles between New York LaGuardia (LGA) and Boston Logan (BOS), Washington National and – more recently – Chicago O’Hare (ORD). JetBlue Airways joined the crowded market this summer, upgrading  its service between Boston and the New York area’s three airports — John F. Kennedy (JFK), LaGuardia and Newark — to shuttle status.

United already flies up to eight daily flights between Newark and Washington National on a combination of Embraer ERJ-145s and E175s, according to Diio by Cirium schedules.

The move is also a bit of back-to-the-future for United. Continental Airlines, which merged with United in 2010, offered a shuttle service on the Newark-Washington National route at various times since it acquired People Express and the low-cost carrier’s Newark hub in 1987.

Related: The best credit cards for United flyers

The new Washington shuttle is just one piece of United’s growth plan for 2020. The airline will add a sixth daily flight between Newark and London Heathrow (LHR) next summer as well as a bevy of new transatlantic services, add four new routes to Tokyo’s close-in airport Haneda (HND) in time for the 2020 Olympics, and continue with the accelerated domestic growth plans it kicked off in 2017.

United maintains plans to grow capacity by 4-6% year-over-year in 2020 despite plans to take delivery of 40 to 50 new Boeing 737 MAX jets, said Nocella. The MAX deliveries are dependent on when the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration certifies the aircraft to fly again, something Boeing expects by December.

Denver, a centerpiece of United’s domestic growth, will see around 550 daily flights next summer, said Nocella. The hub handled an average of 480 daily flights this summer, and up to 503 flights on peak days, Diio shows.

Much of the domestic growth in 2020 is expected to come from adding seats on existing routes. For example, United will replace one of its flights between Newark and Orlando (MCO) flown with a Boeing 737-900ER with a Boeing 777-200 next March. The 777 seats up to 364 passengers compared to just 179 seats on the 737.

Featured image by Edward Russell/TPG.

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