United Threatens To Leave New York JFK After Returning To The Airport Last Year

United Airlines says it needs more flights to make service to the airport work. And if it doesn’t get slots for more flights, it will terminate service in October.

United is flying just twice daily to San Francisco and Los Angeles from JFK, the busiest New York-area airport, after resuming service in 2021.

“If we are not able to get additional allocations for multiple seasons, we will need to suspend service at JFK, effective at the end of October,” United’s email said.

Here’s what happened:

  • United walked away from New York JFK in 2015, leasing its slots to Delta
  • But that was dumb, because they lost corporate deals in places like Los Angeles – those customers didn’t want to fly to Newark. United lost business from Disney and Time Warner to American not just on Los Angeles – New York but also Los Angeles – London and myriad other service as well.
  • So they worked hard to return and scrounged for slots during the pandemic
  • While they complain Newark (where they dominate) is too congested, they claim JFK has room to grow – and growth slots should be given to them
  • They’re also trying to secure slots from other airlines, not just get them for free.

Newark isn’t New York — New York Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia once refused to get off a plane at Newark Airport, because his ticket promised he’d travel to New York. He was at the time pushing for construction of what became LaGuardia airport.

United needs to be at New York JFK, but they’re having trouble reversing the mistake they made under disgraced former CEO Jeff Smisek. Even if they secure slots for more flights, it’s not clear which terminal they will operate from once terminal 7 – scheduled to be torn down once British Airways relocates to terminal 8 this year – closes.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Let them go. Caving to corporate demands needs to stop. Other airlines will fill in and make JFK a better fit for them. Let them go.

  2. I won’t miss T-7 since I stopped flying UA transcon when they left JFK. #Sarcasm

    UA staff at T-7, from the RCC to gate agents to crew were the best! I miss them all.

  3. Not only terminal 7, terminal 1 & 2 will also torn down to build massive terminal 1/2/3. PANYNJ is ready to start.

  4. United doesnt need to be at JFK. They do very well at Newark. JFK is a nice to have but the real money for United is at newark. They’ll scream and cry and lose money at JFK just to have the presence, but it’s just a small presence. They never were that big there anyway, certainly never as big as people here and in the blogosphere like to believe.

  5. Before things went south at JFK, UA flew to IAD, LAX, and SFO. California had ~15 flights combined. The IAD flights were limited and on baby jets. In the late 80’s and 1990’s, they flew to LHR, NRT, and South America.

  6. I’m sure Delta will return a few of slots to United . United won’t like the price but so what? They can ask for another bailout!

  7. Great to see the 1940’s advert for United…..interesting to read the cost comparison with first class rail travel….including a Lower Berth!

  8. Hey Scott, don’t let the door hit you on your way out. His whine is louder than that of an aircraft engine.

  9. Anyone else reminded of the Donovan song, “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is….”

  10. Newark isn’t New York…true. But, it is far closer and more accessible to mid-town Manhattan than JFK will ever be.

    Note: The Giants and the Jets seem to have no problem playing in NJ but calling themselves “NY”!

  11. United is probably trying to indirectly get the slots from AA and/or JetBlue through the Government’s current and future suits in regards to the NE Alliance and the Spirit merger

  12. Gary, I’m booked on their JFK-SFO flight for November 1st. Any idea when I’ll find out if my flight is cancelled?

  13. @Jason: You sound like United management. They don’t get it and neither do you.

    Did you miss the significant corporate business United that lost listed in the original post? That is not imaginary. United admitted to it.

  14. Poor Babies.
    They long term leased their 40 slots to Delta in 2014/15 and now crying and want everyone to feel sorry for them and disperse handouts?
    Yea right.. tell UA to go back to Delta and say they made a mistake and want those 40 back.
    Its UAs problem.. no one elses.
    So just leave JFK and stay away until the leases are up.

  15. UA is a mess. Bad rebrand, bad fleet, bad management and service. Please leave JFK to actual airlines. 🙂

  16. OK United, feel free to leave, nothing stopping you. American, Delta and Jet Blue will be happy to serve those who want to fly JFK LAX / SFO. And don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

  17. UAL’s idiot management thought they were pulling a fast one in 2015. They lost Intl business and market share and lots of money. So now the “braintrust” is threatening to do it again. Aloha, you fools. I sold my UAL stock long ago. JFK is still easier to get to. And the World knows Newark ain’t NY. It’s Jersey and always will be 2nd string. Kinda like the Jersey Giants and
    the Jersey Jets.

  18. Let’s be clear. United management – even in a previous version – made the decision to pull out of one of NYC’s 3 airports while no other competitor agreed to do the same.
    United’s complete strategic failure was in thinking that Newark was a viable substitute for JFK and they learned that there are passengers that want both.
    AA and DL still operate from all 3 airports even if they are heavier on the NY side of the Hudson but neither offer transcons from EWR. B6 decided to jump into both the JFK and EWR transcon markets because it saw an opportunity.

    If UA wants to be able to fly transcon from the NY side of NYC’s 3 airports, the perimeter restrictions at LGA need to be lifted and AA and DL and anyone else should be free to fly from LGA to the west coast – which UA can do with the LGA slots it currently has

  19. Choices. Companies like people have choices. UAL made a choice to give up slots at JFK. Another airline snapped them up. The other airline also made a choice..take the slots. Now, the other airline is the largest US carrier out of JFK and they are making money at it. So, UAL, what are you whining about? UAL made the choice and they have to live with it. Whining to the FAA or to the local government isn’t the way to correct the mistake. One might suggest that UAL do at EWR what DAL did at JFK, make it a super hub.

  20. Their old 757 lie flat seats, currently the best available for JFK, are fine for a daytime transcons but are a deal breaker for overnight or longer flights.

    I hope they do make JFK work and bring back widebodies with updated cabins on the transcon routes.

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