United CEO Scott Kirby told investors this week that United Airlines is planning an “aggressive” return to New York JFK after abandoning the airport in 2015. It’s the first official confirmation that United is actively trying to return to New York JFK in 2021.
United CEO Confirms Return To JFK In 2021
During the Smisek Era, United Airlines pulled out New York JFK, noting that the routes were money-losers. But Smisek was synonymous with “penny wise, pound foolish” and it soon became clear that United’s decision to abandon JFK cost it many key corporate customers who patronized United on other routes, creating a net profit overall. Not everyone thinks Newark is better…
That was October 2015. By 2017, then-President Scott Kirby publicly lamented United’s departure from JFK, stating:
“I wish I could roll back the clock and change the decision. It was the wrong decision.”
Speaking to insiders at United, it seems that Kirby, known as as a micromanager, has personally labored to secure slots and gates at JFK. That work is not done, but United is now confident it can secure those slots and resume service in 2021.
Speaking to investors this week during the Q3 earnings call, Kirby said:
“Certainly, our initial return, I think, would be coming back into the transcon and perhaps service to our hubs. And you’re right, it’s the ability to service corporate domain…But we have been working very, very hard to use the pandemic as a way to get back into JFK. And I have reasonable confidence that we’ll be successful.
“The good news is, all the work that’s happened at JFK in the last few years means there’s actually more airport capacity. There’s not many places in the US where there’s additional airport capacity, but there should be more airport capacity. And we would be a new entrant there. So, I look forward to getting back and competing aggressively and for our customers who want to be able to fly in those transcon markets. We have our fingers crossed. And more than that, we are working hard to restore that service for you.”
Adding service to its hubs would be more than United had historically done. By 2015, United was down to simply service to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) from JFK.
One small upside to the pandemic is that airports like JFK are easier to gain (or regain) access to. With Kirby’s affirmation and promise of “aggressive” service, I fully expect a return to JFK in 2021.
I hear there are extra unused gates at the American Airlines Terminal
It not just gates. Take off and landing slots had to be granted
Competing against JetBlue will be challenging. Good luck with that!
It seems to me that business people will need frequency. Having one or two flights a day to SFO or LAX isn’t going to cut it. And to capture the C-level crowd they’ll have to beef up their ground experience.
2 flights a day SFO-JFK will cut it.
SFO-JFK 0800-1645, JFK-SFO 1800-2115
SFO-JFK 2215-0700+1, JFK-SFO 0830-1145
As traffic grow, 4 flights are more than enough, maybe even 3 if the 6 am departure is removed.
United never gave up its slots at JFK. They’ve been leasing them out to other carriers.
Not what I was told. Source?
Read the FT forum post on this topic. It shows UA is the owner of 24 JFK slots. Delta operates those slots, but UA is technically the owner. Doesn’t mean UA is ever getting those 24 slots back, but technically UA does own two dozen slots at JFK.
JFK is my preferred airport for NY. I flew the LAX-JFK p.s. service for years. When they discontinued the flights I took it personally…LOL. They also had JFK-IAD flights which I used to make east coast connections. If executed well, I can see them having success.
This would be great as it would allow seamless connections to Star Alliance partners and lower international fares/frequency than EWR. One of the great things about living in DC metro area is that NYC is close enough to price shop for better international fares. Dulles may be convenient but prices tend to be a lot higher than the NYC international gateways due to the lack of significant competition.
Few probably remember but United had at least one JFK-ORD and one JFK-DEN for a short period of time (my husband worked those flights as a gate agent). I can’t remember how long they lasted or why UAL did not keep them but it may have been when they then used or needed more slots for LHR, NRT, GIG, GRU, CCS and Trinidad. Hard to believe UAL flew to all those places from JFK but they did. I hope this happens even if it is only for transcons. As a non-rev we would like to be able to at least get to the west coast and onward to Asia. I hate Newark. Those that tout it can do so all they want but the whole world does not live/work on the west side of Manhattan or in New Jersey. Millions of us live on Long Island, the other boroughs (Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island) and Westchester County and points north and east (including Connecticut). Can’t come back soon enough.
United could liquidate and I could not care less. I live near IAD and work in NYC. They screwed me before and I have no doubt the6 would provide “United quality “ service again if they relaunch JFK, no thanks, United!
And people will leave Delta and JetBlue for United? Riggggghhht.
I would be very surprised if all they are aiming for, is domestic.
Firstly, aside from business travellers, few people are aware that Newark is a thing. I type NYC on United Singapore site and I get no hits. That’s how dire it is. Unlike American travellers who favor the downtown airports, Europeans in particular, care about the prestige of the airport. You can go the streets of Mumbai to the skyscrapers of Shanghai… Everyone knows “JFK” is New York. As the world relies on more on public transport, Newark’s attraction inevitably wanes. I remember arriving at EWR on CX, and was so glad I picked JFK as my departing port. It is surprisingly tedious.
If Americans don’t like United, there’s no convincing you. We know from COVID19 lockdown flights that Star Alliance members have big plans to massively increase service to New York. Especially when a nonstop was offered, what was previously believed impossible, now looks completely doable. And because of that Star Alliance will see massive buildup of international passenger feed.
Think Aegean Airlines to Athens, Crete, Heraklion, Thessaloniki
Think Air China to Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenzhen
Think Cathay Pacific to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Osaka, Tokyo, Seoul, Busan, Shanghai, Taipei… I see a lot of potential for CX to just extend existing high frequency regional Asia flights beyond, Hong Kong.
Think Air New Zealand to New Zealand via Australia and Brazil.. and so much more.
I think United needed space to make Avianca, Copa, Azul and what looks like Volaris?? receive relevant vital feed. The old ways were ridiculous. Hardly anyone wanted to connect in Houston, mostly because the flight looks significantly long.
I think the fact that United partners Azul is a given that they are attempting to sway JetBlue towards Star Alliance Connecting Partner position. I think, if they wanted to, they can tame Delta’s quest for global expansion into vaporizing completely. Delta sucks at quality consistency, it seems. They thought they can just introduce all the things that SQ offers and call it a day. Browsin TripAdvisor, Delta really sucks during IROPS or massive delays where the stars become one star only. This hasn’t been fair to SkyTeam member airlines who, must have been under gunpoint to vamp up their cabin products. Say what you want about United, but they are part of the largest alliance, clear concise points about what benefits are there, mileage rates etc. You know what to expect. In contrast, Delta is penny pinching SkyTeam benefits and chososing what it wants to offer its customers.
I’d be surprised if United doesn’t make a play for JetBlue for a more permanent arrangement of Connecting Partner. I would be surprised if they didn’t launch flights to India, Russia, Latin America, Asia. I feel like maybe they’ll takeover SQ 25/26.
Great news!!! It about time we go back into JFK!