Skip to content

Why the American Airlines Shuttle continues the 'tradition' of rear-door deplaning

Oct. 21, 2019
9 min read
Why the American Airlines Shuttle continues the 'tradition' of rear-door deplaning
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

"Yess!" exclaimed one American Airlines Shuttle passenger when she found out they could disembark via stairs from the rear door of an Airbus A319 after a recent flight.

The American Shuttle is the last shuttle operator to continue the tradition of convenient, and in some cases passenger-pleasing, rear-door deplaning at select airports. The practice continues at New York LaGuardia (LGA) and Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA) -- where the recent traveler was excited to exit through the back -- and will resume at Boston Logan (BOS) by early next year.

"It goes back to pretty much tradition," American spokesman Justin Franco told TPG. He explained that the airline continues the practice for the "convenience of getting off the airplane as soon as possible."

The American Shuttle traces its roots back through the US Airways Shuttle to the Trump Shuttle and finally the Eastern Air Lines Shuttle, the progenitor of the Boston-New York-Washington shuttle product that we know today. All of its predecessor carriers deplaned -- and in some cases boarded -- via rear stairs throughout or for some period of their existence.

"It really was a matter of respecting the customers’ time," said Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research and the former marketing director at the Trump Shuttle, of the practice of deplaning via rear stairs.

The Trump Shuttle operated Boeing 727s, an aircraft notable for having built-in stairs that dropped from the rear of the aircraft. Those stairs were used by the airline -- as they had been by Eastern before it and would be by US Airways after it -- for both boarding and deplaning, as well as allowing ground staff quick access to the aircraft while they were on the ground.

A Trump Shuttle Boeing 727 with the rear stairs deployed at New York LaGuardia. (Photo by FotoNoir/Wikimedia Commons)
A Trump Shuttle Boeing 727 with the rear stairs deployed at New York LaGuardia Airport. (Photo by FotoNoir/Wikimedia Commons)

In his signature luxurious style, Donald Trump even had red carpet installed on the rear stairs of the shuttle's 727s, said Harteveldt.

"Image was important," said Harteveldt. "I don’t think aircraft people ever had it so good.”

American continues the tradition on some shuttle flights. Situations when it will not use the rear door include during inclement weather and when it lacks the ground capabilities or facilities to get passengers onto the ramp and into the concourse, said Franco. For example, the airline does not use the rear door for shuttle flights between LaGuardia and Chicago O'Hare (ORD) because it lacks the capability to deplane the Boeing 737-800 it flies on the route to the tarmac.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

The American Shuttle flies Airbus A319s and Embraer E-Jets on routes between Boston, New York and Washington, according to Diio by Cirium schedules.

A US Airways Shuttle flight disembarking via the rear door at Washington National Airport in 2011. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Delta Shuttle, which competes with the American Shuttle between LaGuardia and Boston, Chicago and Washington, does not provide rear-door deplaning due to facility limitations at the four airports.

The decline of rear-door passenger usage in the U.S. has been a decades-long affair. Initially, it was driven by the general shift towards the use of jet bridges that keep passengers out of the elements for most flights. Later, particularly after 9/11, security concerns around passengers on the ramp became a prominent issue.

The American Shuttle is also not the only U.S. where passengers use the rear door. The practice continues at smaller airports, particularly those that lack jet bridges, for example Burbank (BUR) and Long Beach (LGB) in California.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Arriving by stairs at #BOS!

A post shared by Ned Russell (@airbus777) on

And of course there are the numerous U.S. regional flights that continue to board and deplane via the ramp, including flights on ATR turboprops that only have a rear door to use.

The operational savings of deplaning via the rear doors is debatable. Passengers sitting in the rear of a recent American Shuttle flight saved several minutes by deplaning via the back and re-entering the concourse from the ramp. However, the airline had extra staff on hand to ensure travelers stayed within the marked walkway between the aircraft and terminal.

376874 03: Delta Shuttle jets stand at Logan Airport with the city of Boston as a backdrop August 24, 2000. Massachusetts Port Authority officials recently toured Pease International Trade Port in New Hampshire, examining it as a way to ease congestion at Logan Airport. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Newsmakers)
A Delta Shuttle 727 with the rear airstairs deployed at Boston Logan in 2000. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Newsmakers)

Delta does not see any operational impacts from its sole use of jet bridges on shuttle flights, a spokesperson for the carrier said.

Outside the U.S., the usage of the rear aircraft door for boarding and de-planing is alive and well. In Australia, carriers including Virgin Australia say the practice reduces congestion in the aisle and speeds aircraft turns.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Airstair boarding for the win @virginaustralia ???? #avgeek

A post shared by Ned Russell (@airbus777) on

Featured image by AFP/Getty Images

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023