United Airlines sees a silver lining to a potential JetBlue – Spirit merger: an expansion opportunity at New York JFK.
United Airlines Want To Use JetBlue Merger For JFK Expansion
After a six year hiatus, United Airlines returned to New York Kennedy (JFK) in 2021, offering four daily flights, two from each West Coast hub. More than a year later, those two flights per day from San Francisco (SFO) and two from Los Angeles (LAX) remain popular, but have been downgraded from a three-cabin Boeing 767-300 to a two-cabin Boeing 757-200 on all segments.
With just a morning and redeye eastbound flight and morning and evening westbound flight, United does not offer the frequencies to match American Airlines, JetBlue, or Delta, all of which compete with United on this route.
But United CEO Scott Kirby is hopeful that if a JetBlue merger goes through with Spirit, JetBlue will be forced to divest some of its slots as concession to regulators worried about diminished competition. Should that be the case, Kirby hopes to secure additional slots at JFK. He told Bloomberg:
“Well certainly the place that we, whether it’s through JetBlue or somewhere else, we would like to get back into JFK in a big way, particularly in the transcon market. So getting enough slots at JFK that we can get back to serving San Francisco and Los Angeles, particularly for business customers, and having another real option for business customers in those markets that would be our number one priority.”
Spirit Airlines is currently weighing a new offer from JetBlue, having previously committed to merge with Frontier Airlines. Neither Frontier or Spirit currently serve JFK.
Kirby is correct to recognize that United’s limited 757-200 service to New York JFK is not adequate. Whether United is able to obtain slots from JetBlue or another carrier is less important than the fact that United desperately needs more slots and to increase service to JFK if it ever is to be considered a serious player once again.
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