Mention the Delta Shuttle, and the natural thought is of the hourly flights between New York and Boston, and between New York and Washington, D.C. The flights, and a competing shuttle service flown by US Airways, are a staple of business travelers, connecting three of the east coast's largest metro areas.
(As an historical note, East Coast shuttle services began in 1961, when Eastern launched hourly Lockheed Constellation and Electra flights linking New York with Boston and Washington, D.C. Eastern sold the operation to Donald Trump in 1989, and it was later sold to US Airways.)
Delta's shuttle traces its roots back to 1987, when Pan Am started its own shuttle service to compete with Eastern's. Pan Am sold the shuttle operation to Delta in 1991, in the early stages of the asset sale that culminated in its bankruptcy and liquidation.
Beginning on June 14, after almost 50 years, the definition of "shuttle" will change as Delta adds a new leg to its Shuttle service, between New York and Chicago O'Hare. Like its other Shuttle flights, the new Chicago service will operate hourly, with 11 flights every weekday. The move is part of Delta's effort to solidify its position in the New York market, an especially high-priority goal in light of the upcoming merger of United and Continental. The seriousness of Delta's purpose is underscored by its aggressive mileage bonus for summer Shuttle flights.
From Delta's press release:
To mark Delta's continued growth in the New York market, the airline is offering SkyMiles members triple flown miles and triple Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) on all Delta Shuttle flights connecting LaGuardia to Boston, Washington (Reagan National), and Chicago (O'Hare) between June 14 and August 31, 2010.
Members must register for this promotion at delta.com/shuttlepromo. This bonus is in addition to the minimum 500 SkyMiles earned for each Shuttle flight traveled. SkyMiles members traveling between Chicago and New York can earn nearly 4,400 miles round-trip while customers traveling on Delta Shuttle's New York-Boston and New York-Washington, D.C. routes can earn 3,000 miles for each round-trip.
There's no limit to the number of bonus miles that can be earned.
Deal or No Deal
Triple elite-qualifying miles? Even on relatively short shuttle flights, the numbers are compelling.
For the new Chicago flights, six round-trips are worth 26,400 miles, enough for a free award ticket and entry-level elite status.
And with the 500-mile minimum for Boston and Washington, D.C., flights, you earn 3,000 redeemable and elite-qualifying miles for every round-trip.
By any measure, those are significant bonuses.
They're so significant, in fact, that I'd be surprised if US Airways doesn't match this offer for its own shuttle flights. And United might feel compelled to counter with bonuses for New York-Chicago flights as well.
Good times for shuttle customers!
Reader Reality Check
If you're a US Airways shuttle customer, or fly United between new York and Chicago, will this promotion change your travel plans?
And if not, why not?