Review: Delta Shuttle from Chicago to New York in Delta Comfort+
I recently attended the 27th annual Freddie Awards in New Jersey. The cheapest way to get to New York or New Jersey was via Chicago. I’ve been doing a lot of flying with Delta recently in order to retain my Silver Medallion status. So I booked a flight from Chicago O’Hare to New York-LaGuardia on Delta Air Lines. However, it wasn’t until a few hours before my flight that I realized that I had booked a flight on Delta Shuttle. What did this mean?
Delta Shuttle is Delta Air Lines’ long-running shuttle service. Airline shuttle service became popular during the late 80s and early 90s especially along the eastern United States. Most major airlines ran hourly flights between major East Coast cities. American Airlines Shuttle, Pan Am Shuttle, Eastern Shuttle, US Airways Shuttle, Delta Shuttle, and of course, Trump Shuttle all at one time operated shuttle service. However, times have changed and now just two airlines, American and Delta, operate shuttle service. Shuttle flights would often go out with a lot of unfilled seats and weren’t the most profitable ventures. The extent to which airlines operated shuttle services during the 1990s certainly wouldn’t fly in 2017.
Still, Delta and American seem to make it work. That said, both airlines offer limited hourly service, usually only flying hourly on select weekdays with small regional jets. Both American and Delta have managed to differentiate service on shuttle flights. They offer priority ground service, free premium beverages, and business friendly service/schedules. When I discovered I had booked a flight on Delta Shuttle, I was excited to see what it was like to experience shuttle service.
Here’s what it’s like to fly on Delta Shuttle.
Delta Shuttle Benefits, Service
Probably the most useful and consistent benefit when flying on Delta Shuttle is a dedicated check-in desk. At Chicago O’Hare Terminal 2, Delta has a fairly modest setup. Delta Shuttle takes up two check-in desks and features a dedicated lane.
I was the only one checking in for a Delta Shuttle flight at that time. I walked right up to the ticketing agent and received my boarding pass within a matter of minutes. The agents were super friendly and provided me with some alternate flights if I didn’t want to wait around in the airport.
Delta Shuttle has dedicated check-in desks at all Delta Shuttle airports. At New York-LaGuardia, Delta Shuttle operates out of its own separate terminal known as the Marine Air Terminal. The Marine Air Terminal is fairly basic but features quick check-in and security wait times.
Delta Shuttle customers have access to priority security screening, however, I didn’t end up using it. I have TSAPreCheck so I just went through the PreCheck lane.
To my surprise, I was the only one in the PreCheck lane and one of ten passengers at one of the Terminal 2 checkpoints. When I approached the identification desk, the agent told me, “Bro, you need to update your passport, come on, it’s over a year expired.” I just got that passport in late August so I knew it wasn’t expired. It turns out, the agent was reading the issuance date. Wow. Keep in mind, that agent’s job is to recognize fraudulent identification and he didn’t even know how to read a passport.
After clearing security, I made my way to an empty United gate and worked on some homework and blog posts. I would normally visit a SkyClub, however, the SkyClub in Chicago features self-serve alcohol requiring all guests to be 21 years or older.
I was surprised how quick time passed during my layover. Boarding was slated to commence at 8:00 AM. I made my way to the gate around 7:45 AM to take some pictures and inquire about paying to upgrade to First Class.
I was on the upgrade list for First Class, however, I was number eight and there were only three seats open. When I approached the agent to inquire about paying for an upgrade, the agent copped an attitude and treated me like I was an idiot. She told me that I should just wait for my upgrade to clear and that I should have paid to upgrade when I was offered the option before check-in. Another agent noticed how the first agent was acting and came in to take me side. The other agent said, “Yeah, that’s weird that we can’t accept paid upgrades, haha.” Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed by the agent.
After being stupid enough to inquire about a paid upgrade, I walked around the gate area. Delta Shuttle offers free newspapers and magazines to shuttle passengers. I located the small newsstand near the gate and took a New York Times. At Delta Shuttle’s Marine Air Terminal, there’s an entire wall of newspapers and magazines.
Delta Shuttle Flight 5964
Boarding began on-time. The agents didn’t do a great job of keeping people seated until their groups were called. Most passengers were crowded around the gate well before boarding. Finally, the agent called “Premium” and boarding began.
I was seated in seat 7A. The aircraft was an Embraer 175. The Embraer 175 flies most of Delta’s shuttle flights. A few Delta Shuttle flights are served with Boeing 717s, however, almost every flight in the eastern US is operated with an Embraer 175.
The Embraer 175 is one of my favorite aircraft. Even if you’re seated in coach, it’s a very comfortable aircraft. The windows are gigantic, the overhead bins can actually accommodate luggage, and there are only two seats on both sides of the aircraft.
7A is Delta Comfort+. In First Class, a plated meal was served. From what I could see from my seat, it looked like a pretty substantial meal for such a short fight. Back in Comfort+, a hefty snack basket was passed around. Additionally, all alcoholic beverages on Delta Shuttle flights are free to passengers in both Comfort+ and economy. For my morning snack, I choose a snack bar, banana, and some granola.
I was pleasantly surprised by the fully stocked snack basket. On select Delta Shuttle flights out west, Comfort+ passenger will receive a free snack box with healthy fare. According to Delta’s website, it’s not uncommon for all passengers seated in Comfort+ and economy to receive a bagel or pastry on Delta Shuttle flights in the morning.
All of Delta’s shuttle aircraft feature onboard power outlets at each row. This came in handy throughout the flight as I had download a movie to watch on the short flight. I also previewed Delta Studio which is Delta’s wi-fi based streaming in-flight entertainment service. American Airlines offers a much better selection as Delta Studio was just pathetic. The Gogo wi-fi offered on my flight was also just downright embarrassing but that’s a Gogo issue, not a Delta Shuttle issue.
Terrible in-flight entertainment aside, I really enjoyed the flight. The flight attendants were super professional and friendly and the snack basket in Comfort+ was a nice touch. I also had the entire row to myself which is always a plus!
My flight arrived at LaGuardia a few minutes late despite leaving early. I’m guessing the delay was due to ATC congestion as the weather was fantastic.
I disembarked into LaGuarida’s ancient Marine Air Terminal. The terminal is fairly small but adequate for the number of flights the terminal serves. As I said, it’s old but so is everything else at LaGarudia. It took just three minutes from exiting the aircraft to reach arrivals. I managed to leave the aircraft and hop in my Uber in under fifteen minutes thanks to the layout of the small Marine Air Terminal. Delta’s Marine Air Terminal is the perfect set-up for shuttle service.
The days of airline shuttle service are numbered. American Airlines continues to operate a substantial network of flights from the east coast, however, has slowly but surely, faded out much of the American Airlines Shuttle brand. Additionally, JetBlue has begun a shuttle-like service from Boston to New York.
Delta Shuttle is fantastic and definitely quicker and more efficient than traditional Delta service. However, I’m not sure the average passenger would really even take advantage of the benefits offered by Delta Shuttle on the ground.
Have you ever flown Delta Shuttle? What’s been your airline shuttle experience?