News broke on CNBC today that United Airlines is returning to JFK after a five year hiatus. While United has been very clear for three years about its desire to return to New York Kennedy, let’s not celebrate just yet. There’s that small matter of slot availability…
United Airlines JFK Return…Not Confirmed…Yet
In 2015, United left New York JFK. Over the years, it had dwindled from a hub to a station supporting only two transcontinental routes, to Los Angeles and San Francisco. By concentrating traffic through Newark, United hoped to build upon its dominance at Newark Liberty International while still satisfying New York demand.
But while convenient for many, the departure from JFK meant United lost many long-term customers who were unwilling to travel to Newark to stay loyal to United.
By 2017, then-President Scott Kirby publicly lamented United’s departure from JFK, stating:
I wish I could roll back the clock and change the decision. It was the wrong decision.
Serving JFK is not only about securing lucrative coast-to-coast travel, but about building a domestic network that feeds into United’s primary strength: its vast international network.
I reached out to United Airlines to confirm whether it would return to JFK and a spokesperson declined to comment.
I also reached out to the port authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates JFK. They also declined to comment.
Here’s what we know, though: the Federal Aviation Administration has not released slot waivers, which were offered in response to COVID-19. Quite the contrary, the FAA has abandoned the usual “use it or lose it” rules to allow carriers to hold onto their slots even while not operating. In normal times, a carrier must utilize its slot 80% of the time or lose it. Through October 24, 2020, a waiver is in effect. The FAA is also considering an extension through March 27, 2021.
If that is the case, it isn’t clear at all who United Airlines will obtain the slots from. Beyond slots, United needs gates as well.
When it comes to getting into Manhattan, Newark works just fine for me…I don’t have a strong preference for either EWR or JFK (in fact, I dislike both airports). But of course there are five boroughs of New York City, not just Manhattan. United erred in abandoning JFK in the first place and news of its return is welcome. That said, United has desired to return to JFK for three years and it has not obtained any slots yet. As long as waivers continue, it likely won’t pick up any either…
> Read More About United Airlines At JFK:
- United Airlines Leaves JFK, Moves p.s. to Newark
- United JFK Employees Say Goodbye to Home, Hello to Uncertainty
- Onboard Video from the Final United p.s. Flight from JFK
- A Review of My First and Last United p.s. Flights from JFK
- Saying Goodbye to United Airlines at JFK
- United Airlines First Class San Francisco to New York JFK
- United Airlines Regrets Leaving New York JFK
- United’s Most Valuable Route And JFK Dilemma
- United Airlines Wants JFK Slots Back
- Vintage Review: United Airlines 757-200 First Class New York JFK To Los Angeles