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.
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.
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.