LONDON – According to CNBC, United Airlines (UA) is planning to resume services at New York’s JFK airport for the first time in five years. UA suspended services out of JFK back in October 2015 after losing money there. The airline decided to move to New York’s Newark International Airport (EWR) instead.

United Airlines believes that this may be the time to capitalize on potential slots given the lack of demand in air travel due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo Credit: Francesco Cecchetti

A New Year in New York?


United Airlines is planning for a 2021 return to JFK, according to people familiar with the matter. However, a firm timeline has not been formulated by the carrier, with regulatory approval most likely to be needed.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said the airline had made a mistake back in 2015 to leave JFK, which has enabled the likes of Delta Air Lines (DL) and American Airlines (AA) to thrive out of the area.

If UA managed to come back to JFK, it would give the carrier a further push in the New York and East Coast market, with more services being able to be launched across the EWR & JFK networks.

This move does make sense for UA, especially with the airline announcing earlier this month it would increase capacity over the next few months.

Photo Credit: Luca Flores

What about the cuts?


A move to JFK would be very interesting given the level of cuts that UA has been making during the pandemic. Back in August, it confirmed it would be cutting the largest amount of Pilots from the fleet in its 94 years of operation.

On top of this, the carrier announced it would furlough 16,000 staff in total. It has also taken measures such as the closure of its base at Tokyo Narita (NRT) and announced plans with AA to cut smaller markets without additional funding given by the U.S government.

So it most definitely begs the question, what about the cuts it has been making? If the JFK operations will go ahead, it could enable UA to un-furlough some of its staff in the New York area, and enable better connectivity in the region.

Photo Credit: Luca Flores

What about Newark?


Some in the industry may think about the future of EWR if United goes for JFK operations, but the future of operations is far from at risk.

Out of Newark, around 404 flights per day depart out of the airport, handling around 15.2 million passengers per year just out of that one airport. It also has an extensive international network, serving 77 daily non-stop flights to 74 international destinations.

Because there are considerable slot constraints at JFK, it would be very unlikely that operations would completely shift over to that airport. Instead, it would be in United’s best interests to use both airports for enhanced connectivity down the road.

Photo Credit: Luca Flores

Looking towards 2021


Whilst UA has declined to comment on this potential element of change, all we can do now is wait to see whether the airline will be able to place its foot back at JFK.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic causing so much widescale disruption, UA is maybe hoping that for 2021, there can be some different positive levels of change.


Featured Image: United Airlines Boeing 777-200. Photo Credit: Luca Flores