United Airlines will return to New York Kennedy (JFK) in 2021, five years after abandoning the airport in a move it came to quickly regret. The return of premium transcontinental service between JFK and the West Coast is a boon for local traffic and intercontinental Star Alliance connections.
United Airlines Will Return To JFK
Returning to JFK has been a critical issue for CEO Scott Kirby, who frequently expressed regret that United Airlines abandoned JFK in 2015 (Kirby joined United in 2016). News of United’s return to JFK came directly from him:
“I have been waiting a long time to say this – United Airlines is back at JFK. Come early next year, we will be serving all three major New York City area airports with a best-in-class product to provide our customers unmatched transcontinental service from New York City and the West Coast.”
What Flights Will United Operate From JFK?
United will offer two transcontinental routes from JFK, including San Francisco (SFO) and Los Angeles (LAX).
New JFK – SFO Service On United
United will operate twice daily service between New York and San Francisco according to the following schedule:
New York JFK – San Francisco
- UA 521 departs 8:00am, arrives 11:37am
- UA 523 departs 5:10pm, arrives 8:47pm
San Francisco – New York JFK
- UA 520 departs 9:10am, arrives 5:40pm
- UA 522 departs 1:30pm, arrives 10:00pm
New JFK – LAX Service On United
United will operate twice daily service between New York and Los Angeles according to the following schedule:
New York JFK – Los Angeles
- UA 515 departs 9:00am, arrives 12:29pm
- UA 517 departs 7:00pm, arrives 10:29pm
Los Angeles – New York JFK
- UA 514 departs 7:30am, arrives 3:50pm
- UA 516 departs 2:30pm, arrives 10:50pm
When Will United’s New JFK Flights Start?
United’s new JFK service will start on February 1, 2021.
What Aircraft Will Be Used On United’s New JFK Routes?
United will use its premium-heavy Boeing 767-300ER on all JFK routes. That aircraft includes Polaris Business Class seating in a 1-1-1 configuration, Premium Plus in a 2-2-2 configuration, United’s premium economy product, and United Economy in a 2-3-2 configuration. Within the economy class section is United’s EconomyPlus, economy seats with up to five extra inches of legroom toward the front of the economy class cabin.
- 46 business class seats
- 22 premium economy seats
- 47 extra legroom economy seats
- 52 economy class seats
Note how premium-heavy these aircraft will be, showing the clientele United is targeting on these routes.
Where Did United Obtain The Slots From?
United obtained slots directly from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). At this point United only has slots through March 26, 2021, a period of less than two months. However, a United spokesperson told me that United intends to remain permanently at JFK:
“The current slots from the FAA are for the winter IATA season, however we are selling tickets into the summer IATA season, our intent is a permanent return to JFK.”
What Terminal Will United Operate Out Of At JFK?
United Airlines will return to Terminal 7, the same terminal it used up until 2015. The terminal is primary used by Alaska Airlines and British Airways but is also used by Aerolineas Argentinas, All Nippon Airways, Eurowings, Iberia, Icelandair, Interjet, LOT Polish Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Ukraine International Airlines.
What Lounge Will United Airlines Use At JFK?
United Airlines used to have a large lounge with a first class section at JFK. When it left JFK in 2015, United gave up the space, which has since been turned into an Alaska Airlines lounge. I asked United whether premium cabin customers would have access to either the Alaska Airlines or British Airways lounge and was told:
“At this time United will not be opening a United Club at JFK. We are working with the airport and industry partners to provide lounge access for our customers – details to come.”
I suspect United passengers will gain access to the Alaska Airlines lounge. Even though Alaska Airlines will compete head-to-head with United on flights between JFK and SFO/LAX, the Alaska Airlines lounge is also a Priority Pass lounge and more likely amenable to a contract with United. That said, Star Alliance and joint venture partner ANA does use the British Airways lounge for its premium cabin passengers in JFK T7.
Is There Award Space On The New Routes?
Not only is award space already available on the new routes, but we are seeing very attractive pricing on many dates next February.
Economy class one-way fares start as low as 8K miles while business class starts at 25K. Expect the prices for both cabins to creep up as travel draws closer or more passengers book, but 25K is a great deal for a six hour flight with a lie-flat bed. United does not publish award charts, so there is technically no upper or lower mileage limit for these flights.
Will United Open A JFK Pilot Or Flight Attendant Base?
While United is still working out the details surrounding a potential re-opening of its JFK crew base, for now the answer is no. United’s current flight attendant agreement considers JFK a co-terminal airport to Newark (EWR), which may give Newark-based flight attendants and pilots preferred bidding on these new routes. However, United told flight attendants that the “base assignment for these routes is currently under review.”
United’s long-rumored return to New York JFK is finally official. After selling its JFK slots five years ago due to a foolish “penny wise, pound foolish” approach to route planning, United is unlikely to make the same mistake twice.
Do you look forward to traveling United in/out of JFK once again?
> 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
- United Airlines Returning To JFK? Not So Fast…
- United CEO Promises “Aggressive” Return To New York JFK