Shuttles, Reliever Airports And Why It Is So Hard To Get From Here to There
When I was young and used to travel from Cape Cod to visit my aunt in New York, I remember vividly taking the Eastern shuttle from Boston to New York. No advance reservation, you just bought a paper ticket and off you went (teenage me in awe of the female execs with their foulard bows and monster shoulder pads). These days even the shuttle flights which should be an easy hop from city to city, are plagued with long security lines and delays causing some to wonder if the shuttle is even worth the effort/expense anymore.
The NY Times reports on the modern age of the shuttle flight on the East Coast which competes with both mainline flights and with high-speed train service such as Amtrak's Acela line. The Acela takes longer, especially on the Washington, DC to Boston route but it costs about half as much as the air fare would. Shuttles have advantages over regular flights, passengers often get free wine and beer, snacks, and lounges and work areas at the airport. Part of the appeal of the shuttle too is that because it is business travelers on short flights they generally have less luggage and are overall a quieter crowd. The shuttle is meant to be a more luxurious and civilized experience and it is, if your flight isn't delayed or canceled, if you don't get bumped, if you don't spend hours at the airport tangled in long lines.
Another hot topic in the world of flights is the creation of reliever airports designed to take some of the pressure off the congested big city airports. Scott McCartney who writes "The Middle Seat" column for the Wall Street Journal reports on the plans to turn the Stewart Airport in Newburgh, N.Y. into a discount destination hub for New York to ease the congestion at La Guardia and JFK. Skybus Airlines, AirTrans, JetBlue and others are all now flying to Stewart. The airline companies hope to use the lower prices for these flights to encourage people to go to Stewart and deal with a ride to New York City that could take two hours. Chicago has been looking at creating a third airport in Peotone, Ill., and in Los Angeles the Palmdale airport was seen as a potential reliever but neither of these proposals have met with great success.
The airline situation isn't getting any better, in January nearly one-third of commercial flights in the U.S. arrived late or were canceled and in December of last year almost 40 percent of flights by the nation's 20 largest carriers were delayed or canceled. It seems to matter less and less what times of new advances are made on airplanes if we can't seem to get them from point A to point B in a reliable manner.