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
A great development that rights one of the biggest wrongs of the $misek era.
Haven’t been to T7 in a few years – did they ever get Pre?
Yes – T7 has a dedicated pre-check lane.
Do you think they will eventually add a JFK to LHR?
Time will tell. My gut says no, but I think it would be a logical fit and they could trim one EWR flight (still leaving five daily).
I don’t think there is space in the Alaska lounge for the morning departures, when you consider how many people would have lounge access via United. I think its a BA lounge or bust.
We will see. I’m rooting for Alaska because of the barista…
Do you think there be corridor between Germany -Denver..this coming thanksgiving and christmas..
Let’s see what AS’s schedule looks like to the coast in FEB. They have dropped LAX altogether and 1x to SFO in the afternoon.
Do you think UA will use AS or BA lounge?
I think AS would be a simpler arrangement–AS contracts with UA for its own passengers already at 4 other stations. I forgot at least one domestic BA lounge (IAD) is part of Priority Pass, so I suppose BA might be willing to let UA utilize the JFK lounge. The issue I foresee is that UA’s afternoon departures will compete with BA’s for space, and BA will probably charge more than AS would due to the amenities provided. Since UA and BA departures will overlap, it will be difficult to segregate the offering to each. Adding a big chunk of additional UA business class guests (not to mention UA club members, if allowed) during the morning or evening rush could potentially stress either lounge. Ultimately, it’s conceivable UA will be without a lounge until they can work out a better terminal location, they might contract for just full-fare passengers or they could create some other unique arrangement (i.e., club members use AS lounge, Polaris use BA).
Sorry for the double post, but another thing I just thought of… Where will they go when T7 closes in less than 2 years?
I asked UA…they had no comment. My guess is 8. Hopefully not 1!
I’ve heard that 1 isn’t even capable of accepting domestic arrivals because the only way to the baggage claims is through customs. Seems like it could be changed though. 8 makes the most sense despite the AA/BA tie up there.
I tend to think T7 will stay operational for an extra 3-4 years, with the pandemic blamed for the delay.
Certainly possible, and very likely. Although Cuomo tends to get what he wants, and if LGA is any example, the pandemic and budget shortfalls don’t seem to matter in these projects. Different scenarios though as LGA is already well along and T7 is still in planning stages. Interesting times ahead!
Wouldn’t 4 be better than 8? Clear, better amenities, Centurion, LX lounge, etc.
I’d like to see 4, but seems that 8 has more space?
Does Delta have any ownership in T4? Seems like they’d put up a fight before letting that happen.
Doesn’t AA own 8? Also a full OW terminal. I assume that is where Alaska is moving to.
T1 offers the most connections to *A Transatlantic.
Aside from AA’s plans at T8, timing on rest of JFK redevelopment appears to be up in the air at this point.
Time for a review shootout at the JFK corral of Transcon Premium products.
Looking forward to doing that! It has been a few years since I reviewed “Mint” on JetBlue and though I have more recent AA and DL reviews, I’d like to refresh those too and add an Alaska review. I’m also so excited that I’ll have a valid excuse now to stay at the TWA hotel!
The J-heavy 767s would be pretty unbeatable hard product-wise vs. other carriers.
Soft product (inc. ground experience) is likely a different story.
Nice scoop on the slot allocations.
You have a typo on the LAXJFK morning departure time (although I wish 7:30 AM was a typo too…9:30 would be better!)
Thanks Jason. Fixed. I was hoping for a redeye, but maybe in due time.
So the FAA just hands out JFK landing slots for the asking? Considering how tightly controlled those are, doesn’t that seem exceedingly odd?
Apparently they have now. Remember, airlines were issued a “use it or lose it” waiver through 26 March in which they don’t have to utilize their slots in order to keep them.
The leisure premier must ask: Will LAX/SFO-EWR remain premium? We want CPU back!
There will be no CPUs. 20 PP each way to upgrade.
You can have your CPU back, but you’ll get 739s in return…no thanks
I wonder if the United sign will be on the building like it is shown in the top picture. That spot now has an Alaska sign. It’s possible that BA will eventually completely move out so the BA sign could be replaced with the UA sign. However, that would be a sad day as I still think of Terminal 7 as the British Airways Terminal (and Terminal 2 as the Northwest/Delta Terminal, but not the Northeastern/Braniff/Northwest Terminal or similar name).
A few weeks ago, I predicted that even 2 flights a day between LAX and between SFO would be sufficient for a start. Someone doubted me, thinking they needed more flights at the beginning. My prediction was fairly close.
Forgive my ignorance (I’m not a New Yorker), but what advantages does JFK bring that EWR lacks? Is it better access to Manhattan/Long Island that’s the draw (if so, why not have commuter flights to/from ORD and/or IAD for domestic/international connections)? Or perhaps to tap the numerous international flight options in/out of JFK (but then it’s probably necessary to book two separate segments)? The few times I’ve visited NYC I’ve used EWR without any real issues accessing the city. Could someone help me understand why with a hub at EWR, United wants back in at JFK?
A few off the top of my head:
1. Easier for ~1/2 of metro NYC to get there
2. There are some int’l carrier connections there you can’t get at EWR
3. At least in the T7 days, more of a boutique experience (quick from curb to gate)
4. EWR is eternally an S-hole with currently a crappy ground experience (esp. w/Polaris lounge closed, and generally extra crappy on domestic trips)
5. It’s in NY
Based on Kirby’s past statements, this is about LA-based corporate contracts (Disney, Time Warner, etc) wanting nonstop access to Long Island via JFK. I’m sure the Hamptons are a key draw – playground for the wealthy and famous.
Noticed that the premium plus pricing is nearly as much as the lie flats. Did a test search and see that for a round trip from Feb 22 through Feb 27, PP is 897, Polaris is 997
The service had better be identical to the Polaris cabin if the prices are similar (flat bed seat should cost more)
Service is (sadly) identical right now in the two cabins. Still, a $100 upgrade for a lie-flat bed is a no-brainer.