United Airlines is determined to steer customers from JFK to Newark for lucrative transatlantic flights. But how?
In continuing to unpack the conversation between United President Scott Kirby and Newark employees, exclusively obtained by Live and Let’s Fly, talk shifted to the New York market. Kirby begins by pointing out an interesting stat: 83% of United’s premium traffic originates or terminates in a United hub.
One of the competitive strengths of United Airlines is our premium demand. 83% of the people that fly internationally and pay for premium, so business class tickets–are going to one of United’s seven hubs. It’s the reason we can put a 46-seat high-J 767 into the market. We do really well here.
Kirby is referring to a subfleet of recently retrofitted 767-300 aircraft that are premium-heavy (46 business class seats) and used on routes between Newark and London Heathrow. But United is not satisfied. It wants to pull more customers from JFK.
What we’d like to do an even better job is getting more customers to leave JFK. There’s still an awful lot of customers who just out of force of habit–and Heathrow is the number one market. New York – Heathrow is the biggest revenue market of any airline market in the world. And they disproportionately still fly out of JFK. And it’s just force of habit. Like they fly domestically, and they fly out of Newark. But when they go to London, they’re just used to going over to JFK.
Is that really it? Just force of habit? I’m not saying Kirby is wrong, but I don’t understand why premium travelers would choose Newark for domestic travel but then insist upon JFK for international travel. Rather, I think that United’s own Newark taxi campaign demonstrates that for some in which time is a premium, it simply does not make sense to go to Newark. And while I don’t mind the OTG presence at Newark (some hate it) and note the Polaris Lounge for international business class passengers is tremendous, Newark Airport can be just as chaotic as JFK.
> Read More: Mayhem at JFK: Terminal 4 Security Line
> Read More: United’s New Taxi Ad Campaign: Newark is Closer
Goal, Yes. Path, No
Kirby lays out the goal, but doesn’t lay out a path to reach it.
Getting those customers to move–the high J aircraft is a big part of that. Getting people to move to Newark, flying international business from JFK, is one of the real opportunities we have. And if we can get them to do that, then all of a sudden they aren’t flying Delta or American when they are flying domestically out of LaGuardia. They’re in our frequent flyer program. And they’re coming to Newark all the time. That is one of the big pushes we have to win customers here in the New York region.
Certainly Kirby’s strategy makes sense. But how will customers be won? It must be more than taxi ads and the occasional television spots. I do have one thought on the matter. United has recently renovated its lounge and gate area at LaGuardia. If it can offer consistent on-time performance and friendly service to domestic premium passengers out of LaGuardia, it will coax more to Newark. As always, it is the little things that often make the biggest difference in loyatly. Of course United’s continuing presence at JFK, even if just on premium transcontinental routes, would have been an even bigger key in moving longhaul traffic to Newark.
> Read More: A Prime Example Of How Airline Loyalty Is Built
> Read More: United Airlines Wants JFK Slots Back
It comes as no surprise that New York to London is United’s most valuable route, just like it is with several other airlines. United is right to recognize the opportunity it has to capitalize out of Newark, even at continues to be haunted by it decision to pull out of JFK in the first place.
> Read More: United Airlines Regrets Leaving New York JFK
Well, Newark isn’t in New York.
I’m using LGA this week to avoid the awful pop-up UC! Who thought this was a good idea?
Passengers don’t prefer United for many reasons.
@RJB is spot on. Between DeNada Munoz and Scotch Kirby, this airline continues to be a catastrophe given just how out of touch they are. As a former Premier 1K for years, greatest thing I ever done was become a free agent. I will do the minimum of Gold status, given I leave in the former occupied area of Continental (screw UA I will always use that name), but nothing more, and Newark is a cesspool
So he has a great plan with no discernible way to implement it. Sounds about right for him. At least this time he’s not putting it all on the employees. If this guy is really the best they can do, good thing for him that there’s been too much consolidation. In a truly competitive environment with an airline of that scope, he’d be in trouble.
I would switch to Delta in a heartbeat if I were not in a vicious trap maintaining my 1K status . EWR is a huge pain to her to Feom NYC
Have you seen the reviews for Newark airport, i’m flying there in October and dreading it. Perhaps they could rectify some of the many faults highlighted in their reviews.
It would appear to me that he has little idea of how people in the region pick their airport or airline. Personally, I would suggest having competitive prices and better quality soft product. But I’m only a 1K and an elite on the other two alliances, so what do I know.
I just went through Newark airport. So inefficient. Security/TSA was a confusing mess. Unacceptabe & way below standars.
@ This is wishful thinking on United’s part. They need to suck it up, buy slots at JFK, resume CA-JFK flights, and feed passengers to their superior airline partners.
UA is a minor player in the NYLON market and will remain such when they don’t fly to or from JFK. Whilst they may persuade some Americans to fly from EWR, they will struggle to persuade any Brits to fly to Newark, a place and airport they haven’t heard of and which doesn’t even include New York in its name.
Due to the inconvenience of EWR and the devaluation of MileagePlus I have stopped flying United unless they are the only carrier that works for my schedule. I have moved to AS and DL.
And the top DOMESTIC premium route is NYCLAX. Tell Kirby to fly EWRLAX on UA and then do JFKLAX on either AA or DL. It’s night and day – the EWR ground experience is subpar at every step of the ground experience for premium cabin.
Pre-check at EWR? A mess. At JFK – never waited more than 5 mins. Lounges at EWR? No access to Polaris and the United Clubs are horrendous. At JFK – Flagship Lounge at AA and newly renovated SkyClubs at DL. Boarding on UA? Unless you’re 1K, line up in looong lines along with scads of elites in coach in group 1 (after they’ve pre-boarded what feels like 10 different groups). On AA or DL – pre-boarding for business class with short lines.
Flying to London only removes the club issue above, and regardless, premium travelers want a consistent premium experience when they’re traveling transcon as well. AA/DL provide this, UA does not. It’s not just the distance to the airport but what happens when you get there. UA has a long way to go to make the ground experience at EWR acceptable to premium travelers.
that’s how we can tell you’re a thoroughly worthless troll when you need to use 2 airlines (AA+DL) just to counter that of UA. Hey spin88 toilet trash, why don’t you go back to Montana where you belong ?
A partnership with Blade would go along way. I’ve used it several times (to both EWR and JFK) and love it. That and solve the pre-check issues, check-in is a disaster.
UA only has 5 daily non-stop flight between EWR & LHR, while BA/AA and VS/DL alliance have more than 10 flights daily from JFK. For UA to grab a larger slice of Business travelers, UA will need an extra 2 or 3 daily flights.
I’ve become a UA/MP convert recently. Frequent is travel to Germany got me flying LH and the Polaris lounge got me to try UA metal out of EWR. I like it better than DL out of JFK, except when I fly to LHR when I prefer Virgin. I also find redeeming MP easier than Skypesos.
I have switched more of my domestic flying to UA as a result of the improved international product, despite living on the east side of Manhattan which is closer to LGA and JFK than EWR. I don’t have any complains about security at EWR like those above. Always has been efficient for me.
Yes, more non-ORD routes out of LGA would be nice and Calif-JFK / LHR-JFK nonstops would be great. Also giving Calif-EWR passengers access to the Polaris lounge would be awesome. But so far like the changes UA has made in the last two years.
Note part of this is based on enjoying using my MP miles for personal travel. If MP miles are significantly devalued this view could change, but regardless still prefer the the Polaris ground and air experience over Delta.
After recently riding the PATH trains, I think there’s a real opportunity there for UA to go after the lower Manhattan crowd, especially Wall Street. While there is a long-term plan to connect it to EWR (https://www.panynj.gov/path/path-extension.html), right now there are too many transfers. In the interim, they need a direct shuttle bus operation from either the Journal Square or Grove St. station to one of the AirTrain stations (17 min). But even without the shuttle, it works quite well to ride the PATH to one of those stations and then catch an Uber or Lyft. Way more convenient than JFK or even LGA with the crazy construction traffic nightmare there.
If you’re living/working in lower Manhattan, an Uber/Lyft from the Jersey City side only costs about $25 and takes 20 minutes. So PATH to Exchange Place or Hoboken, then Uber isn’t a bad option.
The PATH tends to work alright on weekdays (though crowding during rush hours can be a big issue, especially on the midtown line). The problem is that weekend service is awful. It’s had all sorts of weekend maintenance closures for the past several years for the installation of Positive Train Control and Communications Based Train Control and when that work was finally completed they announced that there would be NO weekend service on the World Trade Centre line for 2 years from 2019-2020 to replace tracks and other works in the tunnel.
Agree with @Tory that there are currently too many transfers. The whole “air train” concept in NY is dumb. Other world cities are able to run major train lines straight into Airport terminals.
Does he not get it ????……There are 7.5 million people including myself who live on Long Island. It is probably one of the worst torture trips to have to drive off Long Island, onto the Belt Parkway, onto the Staten Island Expressway, Verrazano bridge +++ to get to Newark Airport. It is at minimum a two hour (or more) drive. Factor in heavy traffic, holiday traffic, weekend traffic, ANY traffic plus any construction zones and tolls. Alternatives are driving from Long Island through Queens or the Bronx to get to the George Washington Bridge, next down the Jersey Turnpike, more tolls and same traffic mess as above. News Flash to Scott Kirby – the whole world doesn’t live on the Jersey side of the Hudson River or in (parts of) N.Y. City that make EWR convenient.
How about the Long Island wreck-road to Penn Station and then NJTransit from there ? Well it’s okay if the NJTransit trains are running on time or without long/unexpected stops between stations. If someone wants to arrive at Newark Airport without the need of a straight jacket when they get there and use the trains to get there, then they had better allow a 4-5 hour window to do so (really six hours if you want to spend 1-2 “relaxed” hours at/near your gate.
Scott — stop touting NEWARK – start looking at ways that JFK can be used again. United has the $Billions and the power to start that up again – Just for once take a page from Delta’s book – or several pages – and take the lead !!!!
I agree that EWR makes no sense for Long Island residents, but it has a huge population catchment area of its own in New Jersey and Manhattan bigger than the vast majority of U.S. metro areas.
There are 6.5 million people living in North Jersey for whom crossing the Hudson and East Rivers through NYC to get to JFK is a huge hassle too!
I live in downtown Jersey City and a lyft/uber to EWR is 25 minutes. A lyft/uber to JFK is 45 minutes (at 3am with 0 traffic) all the way up to 2 hours (Friday evening traffic) with my average being about 1h15-1h30.
Agree, but nobody is asking New Jersey and west side residents of Manhattan to go to JFK – great for them that Newark works – keep it, United, keep Newark all you want – knock yourself out – only have some concern – and probably a ton of profit if you restore JFK as a useful airport. Am I saying dozens of international flights from JFK – no, ……how about just JFK-London only and JFK-LAX and SFO and maybe Chicago or Denver. Those few markets alone would be filled daily without a doubt (if only by Long Island residents). Good as DL is, many people are better off with United because of their range, destination options and Star Alliance partners- way better than Delta.
@JoEllen : yes how could we forget that the losers like you who couldn’t afford living in Manhattan be the center of the universe ?
only pure losers insist on flying Trumpian airlines based in Texas and Georgia out of JFK instead of the only one of US3 not based in a Trump trash state – UA.
i have better morals than those losers who patronize Trumpian airlines.
Henry LAX, let’s tone down the rhetoric directed against other readers.
I have come around about whether to admit PS passengers accessing Polaris Lounge when flying in business cabin. I was in the camp of exclusive for international passengers flying in the Polaris cabin.
After seeing the shamble state of the EWR United Club, and how AA and DL provide better lounge facilities to their premium transcontinental passengers out of JFK, United needs to stay competitive. I changed my mind on this. PS business cabin fares are not cheap, so let’s make us a premium experience for the high paying passengers.
If UA wants to make it in New York, they at least need presence at LGA. JFK is just better. The AA flagship lounge is great, as is the Delta SkyClub. The AirTrain works well and ppl from Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Connecticut and upper Manhattan are all way closer to JFK. Not just that but Star Alliance partners like Singapore Airlines, ANA, Avianca, Air China and Egyptair all fly from JFK and not EWR.