This a guest blog from Vinay Bhaskara looking how airline and train transportation has changed over time on the east coast. This is his story:

One of my more ’œavgeeky’ hobbies is looking at the Form 41 data; specifically the T100. The T100D Segment, which I’m going to be looking at today, gives us data about every domestic flight operated by all carriers, both US owned, and international.

Now the T100 database at the DOT goes back to 1990, so I decided to take a look at how a specific route looked like in 1990, and then in 2009 (the second to last full year of data available). After a few moments of debate, I decided on New York La Guardia to Washington Reagan ’“ one component of the venerable Northeast Shuttle.

The La Guardia to Reagan route is still one of the most traversed air routes in North America, comprising 423,483 passengers last year. There are only two airlines on the route; US Airways, and Delta. In 1990, it was the legendary Pan Am who flew the route in lieu of Delta. That being said, here are some of the stats I found most interesting:

* Capacity on the route fell by 49% and passengers dropped 50%. So in 19 years, the airlines have halved their capacity on the route, and half as many passengers are flying the route.

* Despite the precipitous drop in capacity and demand, the average number of daily flights only dropped from 31 to 24.

* This corresponds with the average aircraft size falling from 159 seats in 1990, to 103 seats in 2009. Of course this probably has a lot to do with the fact that Delta is running E175s every hour, but still.

* Delta had a load factor of 40% last year. I hope they have lots of high yielding passengers, because they sure as heck aren’t filling many seats.

The following chart shows how the capacity and passengers carried stacked up for each airline:

The next two charts show the corresponding market shares of the different airlines. Isn’t it surprising that Delta (who replaced Pan Am on the route in 1991) lost so much market share?

Why are the passenger numbers dropping so much? In a word: time. The time it takes to fly between New York and DC has grown so much, that flying has become far less attractive, especially when compared to other options like the Acela Express.

Still skeptical?

Let’s take our average businessman, and say that he lives 20 minutes away from both Penn Station and La Guardia (I’m not sure there is such a point, but work with me here). So we start with that. Then, the Acela Express takes an average of 3 hours to reach its destination, and bam, you’re in downtown DC at Union Station.

The flight on the other hand is much more complex. After arriving at the airport, you usually have to budget time for security. I’d estimate it to be 15 minutes at the Marine Air Terminal (Delta Shuttle) during peak times, and 40 minutes at US Airways’ terminal during the same time period. So let’s assume that it takes around 30 minutes for security. Then, you want to be at the gate around 25 minutes before your flight; which brings you to a total of 75 minutes before you even board the flights. Now, the average ramp to ramp time, which is how long it takes for the plane to go from gate to gate was 73 minutes last year. Once you arrive at the airport, we can figure around 10 minutes for disembarking and going to the taxi stand/limo pickup. From Reagan National, it usually takes around 25 minutes to get to downtown DC by car. So let’s tally up the total travel time for each method.

Acela Express
Drive to Penn Station- 20 minutes
Train Travel Time- 180 minutes
Total Travel Time- 200 minutes

US Airways and Delta Shuttles
Drive to La Guardia- 20 minutes
Security at Airport- 30 minutes
Time at Gate Prior to Departure- 25 minutes
Plane Travel Time- 73 minutes
Time to Get out of Reagan Airport- 10 minutes
Drive to Downtown DC- 25 minutes
Total Travel Time- 183 minutes

Plus, the service on the Acela Express is much better. Acela Express- Spacious seats, in-seat power, WiFi, a newspaper, and gourmet meals. US Airways/Delta Shuttle- Cramped cabin, snack boxes, free drinks, and a newspaper. You decide’¦.. Which one would/do you choose?

Vinay Bhaskara is an aviation analyst and history buff based in the United States (New Jersey). In addition to his analyst’s position at Aspire Aviation, he also writes for the Bangalore Aviation blog, and does a podcast on Asian aviation with Innovation Analysis Group (IAG). He can be reached at @TheABVinay on Twitter, as well as at vi***@ba***************.com, on Facebook , and via Linkedin.


EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me:
Airline Livery of the Week: Jazeera Airways

I largely agree with this analysis, especially being a New Yorker. The one caveat is for a train to actually get into and out of Penn Station. Penn Station really needs some improvement here due to the limited inbound and outbound capacity of the tunnels.

The other limitation is the speed in which Acela can travel. Amtrak claims the trains can reach speeds of ~150 mph. In actuality, Acela only tops out at 83 mph at select stretches of the route.

If more people turned their support toward rail, they would realize that it makes little sense for an airline to regularly fly routes between Boston and DC (and Richmond). The inherent weaknesses in the Northeast Corridor system have caused the airlines to exploit this route. If the US would adopt true high speed rail, as it is implemented in Europe and Asia, then it would render air travel along certain corridors pointless.

Unfortunately, outside of the northeast, there aren’t many corridors where high speed rail would show any value. There might be some opportunities between Chicago, Indianapolis and Detroit, Houston, Dallas and Austin, and San Francisco and Los Angeles. Airlines aren’t going to concede these corridors to rail, however. As a result, we’re caught in a cycle of stunted development of our national transportation system, a cycle which badly needs to be broken.

I maintain that if the US ever moved toward a true high speed rail system that many airlines would go out of business, as well as hurt the bottom lines of Boeing and Airbus. There’s no way they could match the efficiency of such a rail system. On the other hand, Boeing and Airbus could always get in on the development of high speed rail vehicles.

This analysis showed some interesting facts. Right until the point when it started trying to compare travel times, and quickly veered into the use of assumptions and generalities not applicable to this route, and perhaps reflecting a lack of experience actually flying it.

The assumption that one must arrive at the airport a full 55 minutes before the shuttle’s departure would be laughed at by most regular travelers of this route. One can fairly safely arrive at the airport 20 minutes prior to *departure* and have no problems (albeit with little margin for error). This is especially true at the Marine Air terminal – I once even was asked if I wanted to check a bag when checking in 10 minutes before departure.

The more interesting question, however, is probably less about the averages than about the consistency. Weather and New York air traffic can obviously create havoc on the flight time side, but I’ve had colleagues with terrible Amtrak delays as well.

Vinay Bhaskara

Also, I’ll try taking a look at the on-time data; I don’t believe that DOT has data for 1990, but I’ll have to check.

Vinay Bhaskara

@Tom; You’re right that I’ve never flown the route; want to do that at some point.

But even if we assume ~30 minutes as airport time; that still yields less than a 40 minute difference; depending on the DC traffic; the advantages of the plane can go away.

I wasn’t saying that Acela is a better option for everybody; just noting that airline capacity on this route has shrunk dramatically in the past 20 yrs, and seeing whether it makes sense empirically that Acela would work.

Dan Webb

Food and newspapers are only complimentary on Acela for those traveling in First.

I think it’s a interesting analysis, but I have to disagree with the travel times section.

I can’t speak about NYC, but in DC, I personally would not use a car/taxi to get into Washington, I would just take the Metro, so that cuts the time off some of the total travel.

What you did not take into consideration is the expanded service to and from the alternate airports. Your analysis assumes that the traffic from 1990 prefers LGA and DCA. There is a sizable amount of traffic to other areas outside downtown that the other airports can provide.

In addition to LGA-DCA, Delta flies, JFK-IAD, JFK-BWI, JFK-DCA. UA flies LGA-IAD, HPN-IAD, JFK-IAD, EWR-IAD, and EWRBWI. In addition to LGA-DCA on US, they fly HPN-DCA. And don’t forget Southwest LGA-BWI and Jetblue JFK-IAD.

The reason the shuttle flights are losing passengers is because of communication technology, not Amtrak. It costs a lot less to video conference than to fly someone to DC for a meeting.

I understand that since 9/11 the Shuttle market has changed considerably. Even before then there were concerns about the Train competition. Before then I think you will find that the shuttle market was much more profitable and more competative between Delta and USAir.

This is what the Amtrak website has to say in comparing travel times to flying (These are 2009 numbers): It includes an important point that Vinay doesn’t discuss here, cost (I would question the airline ticket price though)

I haven’t been on the Acela so I’m not sure if checked luggage is available, but even with carry-ons it seems like another plus for the train would be the amount of luggage you could bring with you.

I’ve read that in Taiwan they went from multiple flights per day between RCTP and RCKH to almost none since their HSR system began service. (I remember sitting in the RCKH terminal in 1995 and being amazed that there would be a seemingly nonstop flow of domestic flights in such a small country.) In China the new HSR system was making a dent in air travel from Beijing to Shanghai (before the safety problems) Japan has had Shinkansen since the 60’s, but still has lots of domestic air traffic. South Korea has a new system…lots of tunnels and viaducts in a mountainous country. Germany has ICE, France has had TGV for years, and Spain has had AVE for awhile. Anyone know how high-speed rail line has impacted air travel in these and other countries? Any routes that have been eliminated because they are now better served by HSR?

I love to fly, but with security hassles and cramped airline cabins with poor amenities, I would much rather take the train these days even if it takes longer to get where I’m going.


I’ll throw another variable into this valid conversation. If your journey starts in the ‘burbs, the math can quickly get better or worse.

My experience had me living just outside of New Haven, CT.

A trip to DC by plane involved a drive to HPN, LGA or BDL (respectively 90, 120 or 60 minutes), then the requisite hour or so pre-flight, the 75 minute flying time and then the 30-45 minutes out of DCA to my destination. Total (best possible) time – 4:00

Using Acela, I faced a 20 minute drive to New Haven Station, plus about 15 minutes for parking and getting to the platform. Then the train trip itself was 4:30. Metro or taxi to my destination was another 10 minutes. Total time – 5:15

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. If there was traffic on any of the airport drives (and there usually was), then that could add up to another 60-90 minutes. Parking added even more time, especially when dealing with HPN, where parking can fill up and there’s no easy “plan B”.

I miss Amtrak living here in the impractically flat middle of the country.

Perspectives on Kolkata to Chennai flight

Flying to Chennai from Kolkata
Chennai is one of the culturally and commercially rich cities, it was also known as Madras earlier. It is the capital of Tamil Nadu and situated on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal.Chennai faces hot and humid weather for the entire year. It is basically known for its divine temples and stunning beaches. It attracts a good number of tourists every year
Likewise, Kolkata is also a beautiful city locatedalong the east bank of the Hooghly River. It faces hot and humid summers and moderately cold winters. May is the hottest month and January is the coldest month.”DurgaPooja” is one of the famous festivals of Kolkata .During that time lots of people visit this city and sometimes it was really hard to get a railway reservation .Both the cities are well connected by Railways and airways. There are many Kolkata to Chennai flight which would hardly take 2 and half hour. There are around 8 flights which daily communicate between the two cities.
About Mumbai to Coimbatore flight
Mumbai is known to be the most populous cities in India. It is located along the west coast of India. It is also referred as ”city of dreams” because of the Hindi film industry (BOLLYWOOD).We encounter a busy pace of life in this city.
Coimbatore which is also referred to as Kovai and it is the largest cities of Tamil Nadu. It faces very pleasant weather because of it is covered by Western Ghats mountain regions.It is a nice place to visit.
Flying for Mumbai to Coimbatore is very convenient and comfortable. It takes around 2 hours to travel between Mumbai to Coimbatore via flight. One can easily book Mumbai to Coimbatore flightvia various online websites.

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