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
With the number of airlines dropping US service (QF, for example), there are JFK slots that will be open.
I expect United to find a way back in, but thus far (and perhaps as far ahead as March 2021) there are no slots available and dormant carriers do not have to relinquish them. I don’t expect any carrier to leave early if it can squat on them.
If ever there were a time to be able to get slots at JFK, this is it.
It’s not just slots, which are available outside the afternoon and evening peak, it’s also gates, which are complicated with the various terminal owners. UA made a foolish unforced error in leaving. They should return and include service to their hubs. JFK is a different catchment area and is more convenient to much of manhatten. Especially E train to Jamaica followed by Airtrain
Don’t forget about Long Island. With no ISP service, LGA being under construction and a nightmare to get to, JFK would be a good way to keep LI UA flyers. EWR is 2 hours drive on a GOOD traffic day.
Dropping JFK was dumb… just about everyone in the frequent flyer community felt it was short sighted to boost their CO driven decision and neglect JFK and all the Star Alliance partners.
I was one of those, “long-term customers who were unwilling to travel to Newark to stay loyal to United.”
I live minutes from JFK. I was a loyal United 1K for years. When they pulled out of JFK, I still stuck with them as I flew the SFO/LAX PS a ton so it still made sense. After they pulled those, I still schlepped to EWR until my 1K status ran out. Status matched to DL. Been DM for 3 years and I’m never going back. DL takes care of me like United never did. I don’t care much for UA returning to JFK except for the welcomed competition.
Don’t you prefer United’s seats to the transcon 767-300 J class on Delta?
T1 w/other Star carriers would seem to be the most likely option…but man that is the pits esp. security
Know T7 is not long for this world, but wonder if that could work in the short term
Besides slots and gates which are very difficult to get, they would also need a lounge. Alaska took over their former lounge in Terminal 7.
And we’ll see if the Port Authority of NY, NJ has forgiven United.
We’ll just have to stay tuned to find out.
Just to be clear, JFK was never really a hub for United. At most they MAY have had 40 departures a day, and that’s generous. Maybe 20 max to LAX/SFO, then 3 a day to London, once to Sao Paulo , once to Buenos Aires, once to Tokyo, then every now and then to Seattle and Hong Kong. Plus let’s say a maximum of 10 United Express flights to Dulles. And for a brief time in the 1990s a Boston flight to support the South America flying.
People like to romanticize the United JFK station of old, but it was never more than what people would call a focus city, and United never referred to it as a true hub. It was o/d focused, not overly reliant on transit passengers, and focused only on a few high profile destinations. United never consistently had flights to its other hubs of ORD or DEN, which makes sense – LGA is the preferred airport and United an serve those hubs just fine from LGA.
If United returns to JFK, I’d expect them to fly to SFO, maybe LAX, maybe LHR, and that’s it. Minor operation. No flights to ORD, DEN, IAH, as United serves those at a premium from LGA. No need to bring low – yield feeder traffic to star partners at JFK either; United can either connect those passengers to their own flights at Newark or those passengers can just use the Star Partner flights in their home markets. And most of the Star Partner flights they’d connect people to at JFK already have a flight at Newark anyway.
If they resume EWR-LA/SF flights as non-premium, please give us back the CPU eligibility! I’ve avoided EWR for connections to Europe just because of that!
Amazing how much (United) JFK bashing people did when CO took over and the end all/be all was all (and only) about Newark. Now that there is a possibility of JFK being restored, all of sudden it makes sense to some or most of those bashers for Long Islanders to have a chance at flying United instead of going into the People’s Republic of New Jersey. Prior to that millions of previous UAL flyers on Long Island and upstate NY were just ignored or tossed aside because, after, all, it was only important that people who live and work in Manhattan (like that was the only section of the New York metro area) to be able to get to New Jersey. I personally hope they come back to JFK, take a few transcons from the EWR operation and open up 1-2 flights a day to Chicago, Denver and Dulles as well.
Somebody at United must be looking at the numbers (diminishing of course due to Covid-19) of people flying from Newark who live in Manhattan. Maybe all those NYC people who fled to the suburbs of Long Island and upstate New York and are working from home in their comfortable suburbs are now loathe to get to Newark (a complete schlep). Hoping this really will happen. Signed UAL retiree on Long Island.
Amen !! UA NEVER should have left JFK. EWR simply doesn’t have the cachet for international flights. EWR is simply too far of a schlep for Long Island ( and most of NYC). I eagerly await their return….
United used to have Terminal 9, which sort of resembles the curbside at Oakland International Airport (first terminal, not the Southwest terminal).
United should learn from Alaska Airlines about flying one flight per day to a destination. UA could start out with JFK-SFO and JFK-LAX. JFK could be an adjunct to LGA, flying only flights that are banned at LGA. This primarily means LAX and SFO, maybe LHR or HNL later.