Following through on its threat, United Airlines will “temporarily” suspend service to New York JFK after failing to secure more slots. United claims it wants to return to JFK, but called its current schedule “too small to be competitive.”
United Airlines Will Leave JFK After Failing To Secure Additional Slots
In a memo reviewed by Live and Let’s Fly, United blames its uncompetitive schedule plus slot resumptions as the reason for its suspension of service to JFK, effective October 29, 2022.
Given our current, too-small-to-be-competitive schedule out of JFK – coupled with the start of the Winter season where more airlines will operate their slots as they resume JFK flying – United has made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend service at JFK.
Even so, this is not quite like 2015 when United left JFK under the (dereliction of) leadership of Jeff Smisek with no plans to return. Here, United makes clear that it wants to return, even as it fails to provide a timeline for doing so:
Our discussions with the FAA have been constructive. It’s clear they are serious about operational improvements in the N.Y./N.J. region, including JFK and EWR, which is important for all our customers.
However, it’s also clear that the process to add additional capacity at JFK will take some time.
United insists it will return and when it returns, it will be larger than before:
Importantly, the significance of JFK to our operation hasn’t changed – we think New York customers deserve more choices, and robust United service to JFK is good for our customers, our employees and our airline. As a result, we will continue our pursuit of a bigger and more desirable schedule for our customers and be ready to seize those opportunities if and when they surface.
Our temporary JFK suspension is effective with the last inbound flights Oct. 29, and we’re working with customers who have tickets after that date to make new arrangements.
Two unanswered questions remain. First, United still owns 12 slot pairs at JFK that it is leasing to Delta. The terms of the lease were never publicized, but I would imagine at some point the lease will expire and United may be able to reclaim those slots (incidentally, United and Delta also traded some slots, with United adding more in Newark [EWR] in exchange for additional JFK slots, then the FAA lifted slot controls at EWR). When will that be?
Second, was United forced into this move because the FAA slot waiver expired and it was literally forced out or did it simply see that at two flights per day to Los Angeles and two to San Francisco, it simply was not profitable? Thus far, United has been tight-lipped about the actual reason for leaving JFK again beyond the broad statement above.
> Read More: United Airlines’ Smart Yet Unreasonable Chess Move At JFK Airport
100 United Employees At JFK Face Uncertainty
No United employee will lose their job, but the 100 United employees at JFK will again face uncertainty, just like in 2015.
We know this news is especially tough for the 100 employees who work at JFK today. We held a series of in-person meetings earlier today to ensure our team knows that no one is losing their job and that we’re going to work hard to make their transition to other nearby stations as smooth as possible.
> Read More: United JFK Employees Say Goodbye to Home, Hello to Uncertainty
It is not surprising at this point, but United Airlines will again (as in 2015) suspend service to JFK, this time in a different environment under different pressures. Based upon the wording of the memo and the ongoing discussions with the FAA, I am hopeful United will return to JFK at one point…hopefully with a vengeance. For now, though, it can place all the focus on its fortress hub across the river in Newark.
Good riddance. It won’t be missed.
Airlines have their own secret data but, even considering that, closing the JFK station is bad. At least, United should defend it’s SFO hub and maintain SFO-JFK flights. It should do so even if it has to kill LAX-JFK and trade slots so it has 4 roundtrips per day from SFO.
Realistically, 2 flights per day might be barely enough. Without looking at the actual schedule, I could see a SFO-JFK schedule as:
or if 4 per day
Situation is still ongoing. Yes they’ve announced but could stop and reverse at any moment. This is a HUGE DEAL with a battle that’s taking place behind the scenes . If they actually end up leaving, chances are Kirby might just have to follow suit. It’s THAT huge!!
What do you mean Kirby might just have to follow suit?
Ultimately, Kirby is very adamant on growing at JFK, and I have no doubt they eventually will somehow, they are just trying to figure out the best way to get the slots.
Sorry Jared, I responded to your post about an hour ago with a long post, but it’s still not up. I’m going to wait another hour or so before i try posting it again. Apparently, I’m being censored by someone!!!
Ok , so here it goes again…2nd time! Kirby’s success, prestige and tenure were pretty much about change and innovation. Chief among his projects was returning UA to JFK. THE FIGHT IS ONGOING AS I SPEAK. It’s going to come down to the wire, down to the 11th hour. They could reverse the decision and change course at any moment. There’s a lot at stake with this decision, so much that it has become existential to
Kirby. No serious airline wanting to be the “largest and best in the world” can subsist without flying to JFK, it’s a must. Kirby knows that. United just received its 24th 737 max 8 today. It also took delivery of its 14th 787 -10 aircraft. It still scheduled to receive 18 brand new 787-10 with the order for 100 new wide bodies not withstanding. The implications of a departure and its blowout are just to large for him to contemplate. Not to mention the fact that all those new airplanes UA is taking delivery of, max 8 and max 9, puts AA and DL as companies flying authentic crap!!
Well that’s a bit dramatic.
I agree getting back into JFK is top priority for Kirby, but are you saying he is going to resign if they aren’t able to? I don’t think that is the case, and I think they eventually will get more slots at JFK whether that is before the end of Oct deadline or not.
Obviously JFK is a huge market. Kirby knows that and wants to serve it. But regardless of if they serve it now or not, UA is still set up so much better than AA and DL.
Also, I get a lot of the high spend corporate travelers want JFK, but EWR is much for profitable for UA than JFK is for AA and DL.
Hi Jared, yes, I know, you might be right. I just hope you’re right on this one. Too much at stake, however, yes it might be that Kirby is just playing his cards right. Time will surely tell!!
United is pulling some serious Blazing Saddles action here.
100 employees serving 28 flights a week seems like a lot. Lubbock has more flights, and I’m sure far fewer employees.
Don’t mess with Texas, Jerry.
United walked into JFK with the attitude of the “Anointed Prince”…..sorry, only Charles III claims that title.
Yet, it’s running out the door in a huff because because it didn’t get its way.
Lets look at the situation:
– Terminal 7 is a royal dump!! Leading candidate for “haunted house” of airport terminals
– Walked into the situation with limited slots and believed it was entitled to more.
– NYC business PAX rely on LGW or JFK out of habit, EWR not so much on the radar scope
– Knew B6 NEA was sucking up slots before it entered JFK
IIRC, Mr Kirby prides himself on counting cards. This time he got distracted and lost the hand.
I’ve seen kids handle trading cards better than Mr Kirby handled this deal.
Kirby will get his slots sooner than later, I wouldn’t doubt him,
Like him or not, UA is in a way better spot than AA and DL and will outperform the others drastically over the next decade, and Kirby should get a lot of the credit for that.
Terminal 7 at JFK is cozy. I like it even more than Terminal 2.
United is crazy. If they don’t have enough slots at JFK, keep what they have and try to get more. Don’t leave JFK because it will be harder to come back big.
There are too many people who think that JFK is everything when it comes to NYC airports. These are the same people who swoon every time the word “JetBlue” is mentioned. These are also the people who thought that United lost this fight. No, they didn’t. This was a win-win situation for United. Get the slots and they establish themselves further at JFK, where they could do damage to AA. Not get the slots and they could consolidate further around EWR (closer to Midtown than JFK is, remember) while still maintaining a presence at LGA (where their terminal wasn’t remodeled heavily like Delta’s was; it’s still a pit).
The next move should be to get out of LGA and move operations to SWF if they want to service points north. The Port Authority says that SWF can handle a lot more traffic than Allegiant and Frontier give it, so let’s take them at their word. If they want to do Long Island, ISP is there and relatively empty with AA leaving.