MIAMI – Yesterday, United Airlines (UA) operated its first flights out of New York’s JFK airport for the first time since 2015, marking a new era for the airline’s competition with other legacy carriers in the country.

With the new addition, UA now operates flights out of all three major New York airports, while maintaining their focus on Newark Airport (EWR).

United operates out of Terminal 7 at JFK, albeit occupied by mostly oneworld alliance carriers. The airline will be conducting the flights on their “High J” 767-300ERs, which are Business and Premium class heavy, which are fitted with a whopping 46 Business class seats, 22 Premium Plus seats, 43 Economy Plus seats, and 56 Economy seats.

Speaking on the re-inaugural flights, Ankit Gupta, Vice President of Domestic Network Planning and Scheduling for UA stated, “United’s return to JFK reflects not only our strong commitment to the New York City area, but also to increasing service to and from the places our customers want to fly,”

He continued, “With the addition of JFK, United now offers unmatched service, greater convenience, more choice and a best-in-class product for travelers throughout the New York City region as they return to the skies.”

United will operate 5 weekly flights to San Francisco and Los Angeles from JFK but is planning to increase its schedule to ten weekly flights to both cities.

A new sign among the current T7 airlines, United had quickly put up lots of signage around the terminal

The Day of

United Airlines operated two flights out of JFK, UA523 to SFO, and UA517 to LAX. I was onboard UA517, which departed two hours later than UA523. I wanted to get to the gate early to enjoy the festivities United had put on prior to the departure of UA523.

Inside, I quickly noticed the first of the new United decorum, “T7” and “Welcome Back” balloons next to the check-in queue. United seemed to have quickly made themselves at home at T7, with monitors and other signage proudly displaying the United logo.

I wasn’t checking any bags, so I made my way to security, which was understandably a bit hectic as T7 is mainly an international terminal.

The first of many balloons United passengers would see during their flights to SFO or LAX

Both flights would depart out of Gate 3, and the surrounding area was buzzing with United executives, employees, media, news crews, and travelers all there to celebrate a long-awaited return for the airline.

I made my way through the crowd and grabbed some goodies from the table with shiny “SFO” lettering. Once UA523 departed, they would put up “LAX” letters and restock the swag for UA517.

15 minutes prior to the departure of UA523, VP of Global Operations, David Kinzelman, spoke to the passengers and employees, congratulating them on a proud and successful homecoming to JFK.

“Our return to JFK not only reflects our commitment to the New York City area but also the continuation of our strategy to aggressively and opportunistically manage the impact of COVID-19 by increasing services to and from places customers want to fly” announced Kinzelman.

David Kinzelman speaking at the podium

Kinzelman’s speech was followed by a ribbon cutting with the crew of UA523, who then boarded, soon followed by the passengers heading to SFO.

At 17:28 local time, N670UA pushed back from Gate 3, marking the first United pushback from JFK in over 5 years. No less than 10 minutes later, N674UA pulled into the same gate, waiting for the 19:10 departure time.

The weather didn’t at all reflect the mood at JFK as N670UA pushed back from Gate 3
N674UA pulling into Gate 3, welcomed by United ops ground crew

I was wondering if UA planned to keep the party going for the second inaugural flight of the day, and they did not disappoint. The goodies table had been fully restocked for the new passengers, and once again David Kinzelman gave the same speech, and the new crew cut another ribbon before getting onto the aircraft.

The crew of UA517 about to cut ribbon on the inaugural JFK-LAX service

The gate agent was kind enough to let me preboard so I could take some photos of the flight deck and pilots of UA517. Captain Bob Ward and First Officer Dan Bosetti were more than excited to be the first pilots to fly this historic flight again, and were happy to let me take some photos of their aircraft.

Captain Bob Ward(Left) and First Officer Dan Bosetti(Right)

Once boarding had completed and pushback began, the flight attendants welcomed the passengers onboard this inaugural flight with a nod to the historic occasion for United.

Taxi and takeoff were uneventful, and the mood lightened as the party came to a close and everyone began to rest as we chased the sunset across the continental USA.

United’s economy snack service consisted of the usual “All-in-one snack bag,” mine consisting of a bottle of water, pretzels, Stroopwafel, and a sanitizing wipe. Passengers are also given a beverage of their choice.

Up and out of JFK, taking off just minutes before departures were stopped due to weather

Our aircraft touched down in Los Angeles at 21:42 local time, 45 minutes early, after spending only 5 hours and 18 minutes in the air. As passengers deplaned we were greeted by gate agents clapping and congratulating us, and looking at all the celebration decorations, it was clear there had been somewhat of an event for the passengers on UA514, the inbound that had brought the aircraft flying UA523 to JFK.

The decorations at Gate 72A at LAX

United sure does know how to put on an inaugural event, and the airline definitely showed its passengers a good time. I was honored to be a part of their big day, and it’s obvious that UA is proud to be back at JFK, completing the NYC airport trifecta.

Featured image and photos by author