Wow: United Airlines Plans To Return To JFK Airport

Filed Under: United

It’s finally happening — United Airlines plans to make a return to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

United Airlines pulled out of JFK in 2015

United Airlines stopped flying to JFK Airport in October 2015:

  • The airline had a limited presence at JFK, primarily using the airport to operate “Premium Service” flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
  • United Airlines was losing money on its JFK flights.
  • One of the challenges for United was that the airline has a mega-hub at Newark, and also had a significant presence at New York LaGuardia (which is the “premium” airport for the NYC-area when traveling domestically).
  • As a result, it’s understandable that the airline struggled with JFK.

What’s interesting to me is that for the past few years United executives have been talking about how they regret pulling out of JFK, in spite of the fact that the airline was losing money there. In 2017, Scott Kirby (at the time President of United, and now CEO) said that pulling out of JFK was a mistake.

He said that United Airlines needed to do a better job of getting customers to book out of EWR rather than JFK, saying that many people booked flights from JFK out of habit. He even stated that the New York to London market is especially challenging, as a lot of people instinctively book out of JFK, thereby ruling out United.

United’s beautiful Polaris Lounge at Newark

United Airlines now returning to JFK

CNBC is reporting that United Airlines plans to resume service at JFK in 2021, possibly even early in the year. This is according to people familiar with the matter, though details are few and far between as of now:

  • JFK is slot controlled, so United will need to get slots for the airport, and we don’t know how far along United is with that process.
  • It’s not clear what routes United plans to resume from JFK — are we talking a resumption of flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco, or more than that? Kirby had hinted at challenges with getting people to book flights between Newark and London, so could we even see United launch long haul flights out of JFK?
  • What terminal would United even use at JFK, especially given that United’s former Terminal 7 is part of JFK’s redesign project, and won’t exist in a few years?
  • Would any premium transcontinental flying out of JFK supplement EWR flying, or replace it?

Presumably United’s strategy is to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to once again gain market share at JFK. With all airlines shrinking, even congested airports are likely to once again have room for growth.

Could United launch New York JFK to London Heathrow flights?

Can someone help me understand the appeal of JFK?

I’m by no means a fan of EWR… but I’m also not a fan of JFK. I’ve gotta be honest, I don’t really understand the appeal of United returning to JFK, so maybe someone can help me out here?

I get why it’s important to maintain a presence at LGA, because by car it’s significantly more convenient than JFK and EWR.

But what’s the benefit of JFK over EWR?

  • From most parts of Manhattan it takes roughly the same amount of time to get to JFK and EWR by taxi, public transportation, or BLADE (there are minor variations, but I’d say they’re mostly a wash).
  • Does this just come down to perception? The premium transcontinental routes were all about securing lucrative contracts, so do those people just prefer the idea of flying to New York rather than New Jersey?
  • Is this a limitation of how most people search for flights through online travel agencies? Do they enter “JFK” as their destination rather than “NYC,” which is the code that includes all three NYC-area airports?
  • Unless United plans to completely shift its Newark hub strategy, it’s not like United will be able to compete directly with the presence of American or Delta. Even if the airline wanted to launch JFK to LHR flights, it wouldn’t be able to compete with the joint ventures of American and British Airways, as well as Delta and Virgin Atlantic.
  • It’s fascinating to me that United has spent millions of dollars running ad campaigns convincing people that EWR is more convenient than JFK, and now United wants to once again return to JFK.

So yeah, help me out here — is United returning to JFK simply because people perceive the airport to be more convenient than EWR, or is there something major I’m missing?

United Airlines’ Newark hub

Bottom line

United Airlines intends to resume flying to JFK as of 2021, after a roughly five year hiatus. I can’t wait to see this plan unfold, including what routes United launches at JFK, and what this means for existing service at EWR.

Personally I’m indifferent towards JFK and EWR, though it seems to me like there’s merit to having one mega-hub, rather than a small presence at an airport that isn’t significantly more convenient. Even if United saw JFK as the more lucrative airport, could it really build up a presence to the point that it could compete with American and Delta, and secure JFK corporate contracts?

It does seem like despite United’s best efforts to convince people otherwise, the public’s perception is that Newark Airport is significantly less convenient.

What do you make of United’s return to JFK? And do you have a preference between JFK and EWR?

Comments
  1. JFK is significantly more convenient for residents of Long Island, which is a market that United can’t easily recapture with it’s current presence out of EWR/LGA.

    I also wonder if there’s a Star Alliance feeder issue here too. Most Star Alliance airlines have a presence at JFK (and some at EWR too), but they can’t feed any people onto United for domestic connections.

  2. This makes plenty of sense to me because right now there are no UA feeder flights into JFK for *A partner flights. It always seemed so stupid that whenever I was booking an award ticket connecting in JFK I’d have to do an airport change out of EWR/LGA.

  3. As a New Yorker it goes well beyond just how far EWR is from Manhattan. Have you ever tried getting to EWR from Williamsburg or even deeper Brooklyn? It’s a pain – you have to go through Manhattan to get there and the Uber easily costs $75-100.

    If you live in Brooklyn or Queens it becomes extremely tough to be loyal to United. I had to change after moving here to Delta. Yes, their presence at LGA is great, but, the furthest you can get is Denver and as a consultant (at least pre-covid) you also need to be able to easily get to the west coast. And I know I am not the only one – there are tons of us who live East of Manhattan who have basically no choice but to be loyal to Delta.

  4. A few things, possibly? JFK seems more premium than EWR, and it’s still NY, whereas EWR is NJ.

    Traffic is also an issue. From Manhattan, you’re limited to the two tunnels and both charge tolls when going into NY. To JFK, you have two tolled tunnels, but you also have 3 bridges, and the option to route south via the BQE thru Brooklyn or north via Grand Central/LIE/Van Wyck. There’s less options from NY to NJ if you’re stuck with traffic. One time, it took me 90 minutes to get from Chinatown, off the Manhattan Bridge to get to the entrance of the Holland Tunnel.

    At EWR you have mainly UA with a smaller selection of domestic and int’l airlines whereas JFK has more opportunities, including more *A partners for connections.

  5. I wonder if right now the international market is better accessed via JFK? Looking at July panynj’s monthly figures show 2x more international passengers out of JFK than EWR.

    Also, I wonder how many business travelers used to travel from the officer in Manhattan (and so closer to EWR) for later flights and those travelers might now choose to leave from their apartments with increased working from home (if that sticks). Are enough of those homes closer to JFK to consider being there more important than before now?

  6. As a resident, the EWR only strategy was a head-scratcher. It seemed like United executives equated the entire New York City market with Manhattan, forgetting that only ~1.6 million residents reside in the borough. For everyone not in Manhattan or Jersey, getting to Newark requires a transit of Manhattan, which is almost always slower than getting to JFK.

    Add in the awful transit options to Newark (subway to Penn Station, transfer to NJ Transit, transfer to the EWR monorail that goes offline every time we get a frost warning), and JFK is a much smarter choice.

  7. 5 million people live in Brooklyn and Queens. They may not fly as much as residents of Manhattan, but that’s still a lot of people. Some of them might even have one of the Chase United cards from your previous post, Ben 🙂

  8. I think it’s largely for non-NYC based people (so those coming from California, or coming from London) who may still not really understand that Newark is equally convenient, or may just assume it’s not without ever bothering to actually do the research (perhaps especially those coming from London where there is a well-established hierarchy of airports so they assume the same is true in New York). You could have some high-value business travelers that come to New York once or twice a year over many years but never bother trying Newark, because why would you?

    United actually flew JFK-LHR and JFK-NRT as recently as 2006 (at which time the EWR hub wasn’t theirs), but with only one flight on each route and no JFK connections to speak of, I can’t imagine they did well.

  9. I predict JFK-ZUR, JFK-FRA, JFK-TLV, JFK-LHR, JFK-IAH, and JFK-SFO to start. Would also love to see them shift EWR-PVG/PEK to JFK.

    Personally, I prefer JFK to EWR despite the fact that EWR is probably closer to me as the crow flies. The E Train to the AirTrain is always a reliable trip to JFK with minimal hassle and reasonable comfort. Worrying about NJT schedules and waiting in the disgusting Penn Station, and then dealing with that awful uncomfortable monorail ride makes EWR second choice.

  10. UA has five years of data on which to make this decision. I tend to believe one airline could not convince the world that #EWR is interchangeable with #JFK.

  11. The reason I prefer JFK is I try my best to not fly in UA metal, so having it move to JFK will not make any difference for customers like me.

  12. I believe its simply a reaction to B6 (JetBlue) upping their routing out of EWR. Anyone choosing JFK over EWR on UA most likely flew out of EWR but prefer JFK. I doubt UA will score back the Corp biz they lost unless they arent happy with whomever they switched to. I dont think B^ had Mint and flew into LAX when UA left. Its not the same game as when they left and I dont see profits coming in by going to JFK

  13. Few thoughts:

    Getting into/out of JFK T7 in the old UA days there was so much easier than EWR. Less mess at security, less walk from curb to gate, etc.

    There is a ton of NY/CT you concede, where a lot of big corporate workers live with their families by not having any JFK presence (Long Island, most of Westchester, most of CT) its not just about the city.

    Will be interesting if they keep PS on both EWR and JFK routes. Before the pull out of JFK even though the airline had been merged for a few years, you pretty much only had old 737s flying SFO/LAX-EWR and there was nothing premium about it. Will be interesting what happens if they feed into both airports or if JFK recaptures the premium traffic. Given B6 competition, can’t imagine they can go back to a regular domestic F seat though on either route.

    I am not sure how a post-OW Alaska survives SFO/LAX-JFK given they will be partners with AA and they have by far the worst premium product.

  14. As a New York-based flyer living in Brooklyn, I avoid Newark at all costs. Smaller terminals, more expensive to get to in an Uber, fewer lounges. JFK is the airport all international airlines aspire to fly into. Newark is like London Gatwick, will always be in the shadow of the main international airport. Sorry to say this. I also grew up in New Jersey so this perception has never changed.

  15. I think Ben doesn’t fully appreciate the population distribution in NYC: While EWR is equally convenient (or even more convenient) than JFK in parts of Manhattan, there are huge numbers of extremely wealthy people living in Brooklyn, Westchester, Long Island (even Queens to some extent). Many top executives/lawyers/bankers who regularly book long-haul international business class travel reside in those areas. If you’re in Brooklyn or Island, chances are you’ll never fly EWR because even if you work in Manhattan, it’s likely that you’re going to be coming from or going to home on at least one end of your trip. Similarly many wealthy parts of Westchester (e.g., New Rochelle) will always choose JFK.

    Basically, the NYC metro area is so massive that EWR probably is only attractive to roughly half the population. There probably is a small element of snobbery as well — EWR is not an airport that a “true” New Yorker would prefer — but mostly it’s just convenience and EWR only really makes sense from certain parts of the city.

  16. For those people outside of NYC, we’ll break it down. People have choices. They can choose to live in NJ or in NYC. Most people living in NYC came from somewhere else and made a choice to live there. They did not move to the city to live in NJ or go out of their way to set foot in the Meadowlands. Against the backdrop of all the inconveniences of living in NYC, getting to JFK is a B- at worst. We would rather go to LGA but there is a perimeter rule restricting access to destinations on the west coast and Europe. The next largest clustering of people like us are at JFK and we are not going to abandon our tribe unless we can avoid it. EWR is that place we go as a destination of last resort if the alternative is spending an extra night in a hotel or making two connections enroute to a smallish airport we would probably rather not go to but cannot avoid.

  17. JFK has better connectivity and more airlines flying out of it. The airport also feels more modern and some terminals are quite well laid out and feels more spacious.

    There’s more lounge options at JFK.

    There’s more public transit options (subway or LIRR). You only have one public transit option at EWR and you can’t even take the air train and get off off take an uber (something I always did – take air train to Jamaica and call an uber because it was cheaper). Especially when the NJ train decides not to run that hour and you have to wait another hour for the next train.

    Even the air train at EWR is smaller and so cramped. As a New Yorker, I hate EWR.

  18. This isn’t about Manhattan. Many, many people who work in Manhattan actually live in Brooklyn/Queens. JFK is considerably more convenient for most NYC residents East of Manhattan (who outnumber residents of Manhattan). And although taxis are no longer even really a consideration, even with rideshares you’ll nearly always pay more and spend more time in the car to travel to/from EWR if you’re in BK/Queens. My guess is catering to these communities is far more lucrative than the Staten Island/E NJ market, where EWR is more convenient.

  19. Manhattan is just one part of the metro NYC area. There is a huge market of people on Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Westchester and Connecticut for whom JFK is far more convenient than EWR.

    I more or less stopped flying UA when they left JFK

  20. Agree that UA is trying to get non-Manhattan customers. Another JFK advantage is that it does have more frequent train service than EWR to Manhattan (plus also service to Downtown Brooklyn).

    If UA does this, I have to think they will be in T1 with Lufthansa and Turkish and fly to some combination of LAX, SFO, LHR and the Lufthansa Group hubs (BRU/MUC/FRA/ZUR/VIE, but probably not all of them). Maybe TLV as another commenter suggested.

    I can see ANA moving to T1 with them once T7 gets scrapped.

  21. Exactly as @SBS and @Andrew said, it is much easier to get to JFK from Queens/Brooklyn than to EWR. I don’t have any perferences when I was living in Manhattan, but after I moved to Queens I make every effort to book flights to/from JFK and LGA – taking the Uber from Queens to EWR could easily cost $100, and the public transportation was too much of a hassle. (That said, when I *really* need to go to EWR, I find taking Uber/Lyft to Penn Station then transfering to NJ Transit to be a reasonable compromise)

  22. United lost big corporate deals when they walked away from JFK. They lost LA studio business, not just for LAX-JFK but across their business, they lost other domestic business and lost LAX-LHR too from Disney and from Time Warner. Dropping LAX-JFK hurt them in LA. So while their LAX-JFK flights weren’t making money, that’s really just a revenue allocation (accounting issue) because the corporate deals they were linchpins for were profitable.

    https://viewfromthewing.com/united-airlines-plans-to-return-to-new-york-jfk-next-year/

    Newark is fine for some destinations in the city and awful for others. Companies weren’t going to send their premium cabin pax to EWR just to remain with United.

  23. Heavy Plus to Harry’s comments. Said another way, bad things happen because you do a bunch of little things poorly that compound over time.

    Little thing 1: Tons of folks (myself included) shifted from Continental to Delta during the great merger meltdown.

    Little thing 2: EWR only strategy resulted in essentially ceding small groups that add up to a substantial amount:
    2a – Long Island and Westchester markets
    2b – Manhattanites on the East Side (high income business travelers)
    2c- Star Alliance feeder

    Result: Downsell / reduction in corporate contract sizes at renewal time.

    Unexpected little thing 3: COVID-19 resulted in wealthy Manhattanites temporarily relocating to their vacation houses in the Hamptons — and will likely be there until 12 months after a vaccine comes out.

  24. There is more to NYC than Manhattan….many millions of people live in Brooklyn and Queens which are nearer to JFK, and let’s not forget those on Long Island, which is a huge market.

    Frankly, EWR is a hole, and a pain to get to, via (a more expensive/unpredictable) car or the *joys* of NJ transit.
    Plus, well, it’s NJ 😉

    This won’t affect me either way as I will never set foot on another UA plane again and I already actively choose JFK over any other airport here.

  25. Opens up possibility for United Domestic to JFK and Star Alliance Partner over the Atlantic ticketing on both revenue and award flights . No one want to do the transfer from JFK to EWR and vice versa

  26. I live in Westchester…My family is in London….
    JFK is FAR easier than EWR…..Not a fan of JFK (or any NY airports)…although that is hopefully changing soon….
    I would choose BA/Virgin any day over United regardless of airport….
    Their Business service was the worst….but in fairness I have not tried Polaris…so I do know they’ve improved…

  27. It’s because people are usually going home from the airport on the return flight, so EWR means getting home later for the 8 million people living on long island.

  28. I much prefer JFK to EWR. I hate the EWR terminal and when going to Manhattan the NJ Transit train is often a long wait. I take the Long Island train to Penn station from JFK and if you miss one the next is not far behind.

  29. This is cute, Lucky 😉

    To anyone who lives in NYC, the idea that jfk and ewr are the same is just silly. United realizes that. But of course, there is no need to realize it if you don’t live in or want to sell stuff in NYC, like united does.

  30. Unless UA plans a connecting flight to EWR then JFK will just become (after squandering a ton of resources to rebuild) what it was and dropped in 2015. But at least we’ll get better shots at upgrades there vs EWR, with no connecting traffic it’ll be much easier.

  31. I’m fairly equidistant from both on the Lower East Side and for me it’s the public transport that makes JFK better: a 2-seat ride via two frequent modes (AirTrain to the J), versus a 3- or 4-seat ride with longer-headway lines (monorail, NJT, Path, Subway) … that’s just way too much schlepping for my taste.

    Also, even with all of the upgrades to EWR it still feels like the airport of a much smaller city. I went to that invite-only restaurant United has at EWR and it just felt like i was in a private event room at an Applebees in St. Louis.

  32. It’s funny you ask whats the difference between JFK and Newark. It’s the same reason why you fly outta Miami instead of Fort Lauderdale. It’s all about the convenience.

  33. @briankuster “I went to that invite-only restaurant United has at EWR and it just felt like i was in a private event room at an Applebees in St. Louis.” Applebees has a private event room? Leave STL out of it. If one is dining in a private event room at Applebees, does location even matter?

  34. As a West Coast based flyer, who has family on Long Island and in Brooklyn, JFK is actually the convenient airport (well as convenient as JFK can be). Also, as someone who frequents the East side of Manhattan, the E train makes things simpler to get to and from airport. Manhattan actually is the physical barrier separating the East side of the market from EWR. Going across town – especially with traffic – can be a real nightmare.

    Before the merger with CO, flights to EWR on UA and CO (at least anecdotally) were always cheaper than AA or DL or UA to JFK, even when VX and B6 entered the market.

    Also, there are just more International carriers out of JFK. Just like Gatwick has to play second fiddle to Heathrow, JFK is the primary international gateway of the USA. EWR will always be the “secondary” airport. Let’s also face the facts that EWR is mostly a dreadful experience for the most part as well. Terminal C is passable, but so are a few JFK terminals, so slight edge to JFK. Now if LGA could get perimeter exceptions passed like DCA did, then we would have some interesting competition. Imagine if BA/AA could run LGA to LCY?

  35. As a lazy budget traveller from Manhattan, I’ll always prefer JFK becuase getting there is simple and relatively cheap: i think 8:50 total. NJ transit+airtrain is twice that and has much more limited timings. Its so much easier for me to just go to the subway, swipe my card, get in the a train and sit there until I’m at my destination. The hassles of getting an NJT ticket, checking the schedule…its all just too much for me.

  36. Ben it’s quite simple. Nobody, but nobody, wants to fly to or from New Jersey in general and Newark in particular. Both have all of the charm as, well, Newark and New Jersey. Just think The Sopranos and Jersey Shore. You’ll get the picture.

    Not that JFK is much better. It’s just that JFK is in New York and that’s where everybody wants to be if traveling to the area.

  37. I have nothing new to add, but I’ll just say that I’m an irrationally loyal UA flyer who lives in lower Manhattan (or, lived, I guess; I seem to have Covid-settled in SBA, which makes UA that much more necessary). I loved flying from Newark. Small, manageable, and certainly faster to get to from my home than JFK. Unless I was taking public transportation — then the convenience and speed of the JFK AirTrain (especially when going by LIRR rather than Subway line E) handily beat that of Newark’s AirTrain, which is awful. I’m usually flying transcon or international, so LGA was mostly a nonissue for me.

    But EWR is a dump. It just is. Even Terminal C, United’s NYC-area showcase, lacks (as of six months ago, anyway) a remotely decent domestic lounge, and Terminals A and B are simply decrepit, and have completely unsuitable, narrow security lanes. (The United lounge in Terminal A, though, is a quiet oasis, and I used to take the airside shuttle bus even when flying from Terminal C.) I think they’re building a new Terminal A; heavens knows they need it.

    And, in many NYC’ers minds, EWR thus represents NJ. It’s not some hidden jewel. In their minds, NYC is the capital of the world. NJ is its shabby neighbor. Some NYC’ers are just never gonna want to go there. I have some friends who lived practically at the mouth of the Holland tunnel — making EWR an obvious choice — but they would rather go to JFK, fly Delta, and benefit from that airline’s more beautiful, if exercise-inducing, terminal (and better customer service). I don’t think they’re alone. And an upper east sider is certainly going to prefer JFK to EWR, given their relative proximity.

    And, yes, as others have noted, going to EWR is going to be totally undesirable for any of the zillions of people who live east of Manhattan. I mean, we’re not even talking just Long Island proper; Brooklyn and Queens, which, last I checked, are also part of NYC (which I note even as a Manhattan snob), are much closer to JFK and LGA than EWR.

    True, irrelevant story: We were hanging out in the Terminal A lounge waiting for a 50-minute, 36-seat flight to PWM at 10:30 AM. An incoming plane *pops a tire*. Cascading cancellations ensue, and, not anticipating the inevitable, I chose to believe that they’d get us on a 2:30 PM, and when that canceled, a 5:00 PM. Of course that canceled too, and at that point they could only offer us 9 PM the following day. Welp. At this point, every other carrier’s flights to PWM had filled, except for one lonely late Delta flight that was, miraculously, acceptably priced. But it was from JFK, and it was going to be bumper to bumper all the way. 3+ hours in an Uber. Could almost just rent a car and drive instead. But we didn’t want to. So we took Newark AirTrain to NJ Transit and switched at Penn Station to LIRR to JFK AirTrain. Helluva way to get a few miles north. At least UA threw us some nice compensation cash, and the smoked meat packed in one of our checked bags which we could not retrieve until it was delivered 48 hours later probably expressed our feelings for us. (At PWM, the bag was sequestered in a room all its own. Good times!)

  38. This is not just about Manhattan or NYC even. You must realize that these airports serve the larger metro NYC area. If you live in CT – stamford, greenwich all the up to new haven, you go to JFK not EWR. JFK is convenient for all of Long Island – Nassau and Suffolk counties as well as Brooklyn and Queens. If you live in parts of east Westchester it’s JFK again. EWR serves New Jersey and lower Manhattan. If you live on the west side of Manhattan they are basically a wash. People are not booking out of habit!!

    To all of you that don’t live in the NY metro region and fly in and spend 2 days in midtown, these airports might seem a wash but they are not. They serve very specific geographic regions.

  39. I’m thinking that the move back to JFK has less to do with EWR customer convenience and more to do with UA trying to gain customers. But the fact could be that people are not wanting to fly UA from either airport. I don’t find EWR that bad. I do find correct EWR posted information somewhat lacking. I try to avoid JFK if at all possible. I also try to avoid LHR. I just find that both airports are very inconvenient for making connections, due to lack of sensible airside terminal connections. IMHO

  40. I live in lower Manhattan, closer to the West Side, so I am part of the group that Lucky is talking about in terms of Newark generally being the same distance as JFK under normal traffic conditions (obviously in high traffic, it is a pain to get to either airport). I still generally prefer JFK because
    1) At least in terms of the airports I use, JFK has better terminals
    2) If I have to use public transportation, JFK is easier to get to via an E or A train. It is still a bit of a pain to use the various Path / NJ Transit trains to get to Newark
    3) It can be cheaper to get to JFK by Uber depending on the time of day

    I at one point considered switching to United because of the massive amount of destinations available from their Newark hub, but in all honesty the big difference for me was LAGUARDIA – which is for me generally the easiest airport to get to by Uber/taxi and where Delta/American generally dominated, with United behind. LaGuardia is also convenient for a lot of those Long Island, Connecticut, Westchester residents everyone else is talking about. Point blank it is better to have a good presence at JFK/LGA if you want to compete in NYC.

  41. @Ethan – can’t agree with you more, JFK was our airport. My mother grew up in Manhattan then later out on Long Island. LaGuardia was actaully better but being on the west coast I hated connecting just to fly there.

    Funny story, one year, newly married, we were headed to LI for Thanksgiving. We found tickets into EWR for about $200 less per ticket…landing at 4:30pm. No little kids, I thought we’d be fine getting out to the island. Oh boy, never again. 4 hours of traffic later we made it. JFK was worth so much more than the $400 we saved flying to EWR.

  42. As many others have pointed out, it’s not just about Manhattan, but also the millions of other people people who live in Brooklyn, Queens, Westchester, Long Island, etc…

    On the other hand, it’s also important to consider all of the people travelling to NYC from around the country and the whole world. JFK is synonymous with NYC. United can spend all the money the want on marketing but it was always going to be an uphill battle, especially with international passengers who may not be as familiar with the NYC metro area.

  43. I absolutely loathe flying to/from EWR. I live in the West Village and can get to JFK reliably, quickly, and cheaply via the E train to Jamaica with a connection to the (far superior to EWR) AirTrain. The NJT schedule from EWR to NYP is horrific and if you miss a train it can be over an hour’s wait for the next one.

    Plus, as others have said, it’s Jersey.

  44. As someone who’s from NJ and grew up flying UA/CO out of EWR, it always shocks me how much people hate on NJ and EWR, but at this point I’ve realized that nothing will change people’s minds, no matter how passionate of a defense I give of NJ or EWR. Sigh.

  45. I agree that a lot of it is perception. I have always found EWR to be just as nice as JFK, and both much nicer than LGA, which feels like it doesn’t belong in a developed country. Also, general perceptions of New Jersey factor in. That said, I think United’s convenience pitch for EWR has an implicit pro-Manhattan bias, and the other two airports are a lot more convenient to a lot of the metro.

    That said, as a United customer living outside of NYC, even minimal from JFK to United’s domestic hubs would do wonders for Star Alliance connectivity, as a number of members only fly to JFK and not EWR.

  46. I think the issue comes down to one being in New York and the other being in New Jersey, and how many New Yorkers look down on NJ. There is the old story that Mayor LaGuardia refused to get off a TWA flight at EWR because his ticket said New York and he was in Jersey.

    I do think UA could make some good headway at JFK, especially considering how many Star Alliance partners fly there, to have limited domestic service timed for international connections. I think in the immediate post COVID era most airlines will pick EWR or JFK but not both.

    I also think you are spot on with the LHR market, UA could complete head to head with AA, DL, VS, and BA there if they do a few flights a day. UA (pre COVID) was also trying to move more connections to IAD vs EWR so they could focus on O&D in EWR, this could help them expand that.

  47. As others have noted, being a EWR only airline basically excludes the entire Long Island population, which is wealthy and high yielding. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a corporate contract behind this. Canon or Nikon perhaps, who both have their US headquarters on Long Island.

    Is EWR also slot controlled? If so I wouldnt be surprised fo see a slot swap between B6 and UA. B6 is expansing in Newark and maybe a corporate contract or two outweighs the potential increased competition? Seems far fetched but its 2020 afterall…

  48. UA made a strategic error by exiting JFK when it did. It had a decent product then and could compete, but the then CEO was looking to cut costs and wasn’t focused at all on making UA a carrier of choice. If UA re-enters JFK, it would be limited to SFO and LAX most likely. There is not a lot of benefit to fly to ORD, IAH, or IAD from JFK. DEN is a maybe, but again, it sufficiently serviced from LGA. What UA needs though is an enhanced premium product, which it once had on JFK-LAX/SFO when it launched “ps” in 2003. In later years, PS was just a BusinessFirst configured 757 with flat beds. I see UA adding the MAX, or the 739ER on these routes, not the 757. The question will be from what Terminal? T7 is to be demolished eventually (T7 was the former home of UA at JFK, and earlier T6 for LAX/SFO and before that, what was T9, which was one of the early JFK terminals and then vacated by UA and combined by AA into the old AA terminal before everything was torn down to make way for T8. I see only two places for UA to park planes at JFK….T4 or T8. It will be interesting.

  49. EWR is only convenient if you live in NJ. It might not even be worth it if you live in manhattan especially if you are arriving or leaving during the work week. Crossing over via tunnel/bridge is a royal pain. I’ve spent 2 hours exiting lower manhattan on a Friday night via Holland tunnel just to get to the other side of the tunnel. And if you are not familiar with nyc and are looking at mass transit, take a moment to look at how ewr connects into manhattan via train. Its a hodge podge mess. After reading EWR’s site you’ll soon realize you’re better off just taking taxi/lyft etc. And that’s not a cheap ride. For people in Brooklyn and queens jfk is the way to go. And while you might get murdered on the A train there is still a straight forward mass transit option. Also, I imagine there are far more international flights out of jfk than ewr so if you have to connect you’re probably more likely to go to jfk. I know its a lot easier for me to find domestic flights into jfk than ewr.

  50. It’s been said about 40 times already, but as a NY’er I feel strongly enough that I’m going to reiterate others’ points. Even though I am closer to EWR, I will choose JFK every single time:
    – E train to AirTrain is extremely reliable, no matter how against the NY subway system you are. I’ve taken that ride countless times and only once ever had an issue (which just required a quick surfacing and uber call). I choose that method over Uber/Taxi every time. As others mentioned, don’t even try to go by car to EWR and battle those tunnels. JFK is not an issue there.
    – Whoever designed EWR’s AirTrain needs to lose their monorail design license because it is comically small and uncomfortable. I don’t know who thought those micro-sized pods were a good idea, no matter what era it was designed. JFK’s AirTrain is spacious.
    – I don’t care how much people like Terminal C at EWR and how much they despise JFK, JFK is a significantly nicer, brighter, and more spacious airport. Even terminals 1, 4, and 8, (which I cannot seem to get away from) are nicer. In EWR I feel like I’m flying from a construction zone or an airport circa 1994. There are more and better lounge options at JFK as well.

  51. I have to agree with Harry. The population of Long Island is 7,647,286. EWR is much further away than JFK for Long Islanders. LGA is not an alternative since LGA does not have long haul flights (1,500 mile perimeter) and you usually have to connect in ORD. When visiting family on Long Island, I preferred to transfer in ORD to fly into LGA than to fly non-stop to EWR. A non-stop to JFK would have been better if it existed.

  52. Non-New Yorker checking in. I prefer JFK over other NYC airports because there’s more international connections.

  53. LOL @ “it’s feed for *A at JFK”

    UA isn’t going to start a hub at JFK (that would be insane given EWR and Aa/DL/B6 at JFK) and everyone and their cousin in *A already flies to SFO/LAX/IAH/ORD/DEN, nobody is going to connect at JFK (complete with a possible terminal switch) instead of taking the nonstop.

    It’s going to be huh connectivity for O/D into the market. I would expect SFO, LAX, ORD, IAH. DEN over time. Maybe LHR. That should be fine.

  54. In addition, the comments on public transportation are interesting. New Yorkers (those in the city) are creatures of public transport. JFK is better connected by public transport and an Uber/taxi is also generally cheaper.

  55. JFK-MEX would be wonderful, keeping my fingers crossed with this long shot. There could be some great connecting options for us here when flying on to the EU.

  56. While JFK does have a more convenient train service than EWR (MTA E train vs NJ Transit), PATH has been planning an extension to EWR, and once that project has been completed, then the convenience of getting to EWR will be up there with JFK. The problem is that PATH has not released any status updates on that project for a while, and United is probably getting tired of waiting for PATH to give an update.

  57. The region is too large to be focused on only one large hub. LGA isn’t a hub. If O&D can ignite JFK on initial routes then there’s potential there.

    There’s a million reasons JFK makes sense. The contracts that can be bid once again make it an opportunity.

    JetBlue insistence to grow in markets traditionally held by the majors.

    Mis-steps by BOTH American and Delta have made in not keeping focus on loyalty.

    American is walking a tightrope financially.

    United is a massive investor for Avianca who’s main operation is at JFK in addition to the vague reference to Star Alliance.

    Really no offense…but your writing comes off so point-of-view. Do you actually interview anyone or just cite very aged motives for leaving JFK? Times have changed. Loyalties have changed.

  58. I’m a New Yorker who vastly prefers EWR over JFK. The NJT train is super easy and the United Terminal C is pretty nice. The AirTrain at JFK is slow and gross (and you have to pay extra for it?!).

  59. Philly ‘burbs resident here. When I fly internationally out of New York I almost always choose JFK over EWR, even if its a longer drive (1hr30min to get to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, spring/summer traffic on the Belt Parkway you can add another hour). Why do I subject myself to an extra hour or more of traffic to fly out of JFK? Traveling to JFK feels more like an experience, since it can sometimes take 3 hours to get to. Also, you get to cross over the Verrazzano and look out over the open Atlantic knowing that in a few hours time you’ll be soaring over it on the way to Europe. The other reason is I prefer to fly on DL/LX/LH to Europe and on early flights leaving around 6pm est for an early morning arrival. In comparison, the LX/LH EWR flights often leave after 9pm so you get to Europe by 10-11am the next day. I know it sounds stupid but EWR just doesn’t have the same charm to it; its surrounded by oil refineries, power plants and a prison, while JFK is right next to the water. The one thing I will give EWR is that its always cool to see planes landing overhead and parallel while driving on the NJ Turnpike.

  60. UA has indicated they want to de-hub EWR over time and shift some of those hub flights to IAD…slot issues. EWR is operationally terrible as a hub..weather, traffic and runway issues. If that’s the case, and New York becomes less of a hub and more of a spoke to international and west coast destinations then JFK makes sense for UA to capture additional premium traffic and to cooperate more with other Star Alliance partners.

  61. If you’re explaining, you’re losing. Sorry, United, but when travelers unfamiliar with the New York area are offered service to an airport in not just another *city*, but another *state*, as an alternative to an airport known worldwide as the flagship international airport for New York City, they aren’t going to go for it.

    Also, few people who aren’t the type to read this blog will know that “NYC” functions as an airport code that searches all three airports. Or those that do have been burned with weird tickets to White Plains or something. But it is fairly well-known, especially to both Americans and foreigners, that some airlines dump you in alternate airports that are far less convenient that the “main” airport. Short of re-naming it “New York City / Hudson River / Please Fly Here It’s Quicker We Promise International Airport”, or annexing it into New York City and building a 5-minue luxury hyperloop straight from the terminal to Times Square or something, Newark is always going to play second fiddle to JFK.

  62. JFK’s population catchment area includes all of Long Island, which is far too important to ignore. Nobody wants to cross two rivers to get to EWR.

    By car: Simply getting out of Manhattan through one of the tunnels can sometimes take longer than a trip to JFK itself. Going into the city is also cheaper from JFK.

    By public transport: As echoed numerous times above, public transport + AirTrain is far more reliable than the notorious EWR AirTrain. With JFK, you also have redundancy between the subway and LIRR. I’ve missed more than one flight because of the EWR AirTrain. Until PATH is extended to EWR, I’m sticking with JFK.

    I now live in Philly and still find it easier to take take a bus/train up to Manhattan and fly out of JFK than EWR (unless I fork up an obscene amount of $ to take Amtrak to EWR).

  63. i am a global services member and live in queens. obviously quite happy about this but…. LITERALLY the only situation in which this would impact my purchasing behavior would be if i’m going directly to the airport from my home for a flight to western europe. any other scenario i don’t care – from manhattan ewr is fine; from home prefer lga for domestic & fine w/ ewr for long haul intl.

  64. It has been reported elsewhere that UA lost large corporate contracts, including Disney and Time Warner, when it cancelled JFK without consulting those customers. In particular, the LA corporate crowd wanted to fly to JFK, not EWR. Reportedly, there were knock-on effects as companies moved both their LAX-NYC and LAX-LHR contracts to AA. While JFK perhaps was losing money when viewed in isolation, it apparently was important to the network as a whole, in particular to the corporate contract crowd, which UA did not bank on when it pulled out of JFK.

  65. You don’t really understand the appeal of JFK over EWR because you think like an elite Manhattanite.

    Now think like a foreign traveler needing to fly to New York. JFK is well known to the rest of the world; EWR is not. It is, after all, in a different city in a different state. If you are given an option of flying into JFK vs. flying into a different airport in a different city in a different state, what would your instinct choose? Exactly.

  66. I don’t understand why UA wants to go back to JFK either.
    Before United left JFK five years ago, the only flight routes they had were JFK-SFO, JFK-LAX, and JFK-IAD. I doubt folks in Long Island/Westchester would exclusively fly UA from JFK to fly those routes.
    I think UA is better off persuading their star alliance partners to all move to EWR from JFK and make EWR the star alliance hub airport of NYC.

  67. From Day1, when the departure from JFK was announced, I predicted UA would regret the decision and within 5 years, they be making overtures to enter that market again.

    If only I was so intuitive on Lotto!

  68. Seems like lack of understanding of the international community on Lucky end as well. International connectivity is why Delta and JetBlue(well American wasn’t properly managed) thrived at JFK. All non US airlines almost exclusively choose to launch their US routes through JFK/LAX/SFO, they will only pick EWR for NYC if slots are unavailable at JFK.

  69. I think they’re going to bring back the “PS” service for LAX/SFO-JFK (although probably with a different name), and only run those point-to-point flights transcon flights out of JFK. My bet is out of T4, where LH has lounges, and they’re going to price it at a level where UA is indifferent about getting charged for the *G being charged for the lounge access.

    That’s super high yield traffic (especially out of SFO) that *hates* EWR, between the regularly bad traffic to midtown and the crappy United Clubs @ EWR. I know a lot of people who switched to B6 (especially Mint) and other carriers when they got rid of the JFK-California nonstops.

    They’ll still have cheaper flights out of EWR.

  70. I lived in Gramercy for 3 years and tried to fly JFK over even LaGuardia:

    a) LGA has no effectively no public transit offers and I could reliably get to JFK in 1.15 using the trains. This is good for domestics and leisure travel when I don’t want to spend $50 one way on an Uber or 3 hrs on a bus to LGA.

    b) Yellow cabs are fixed rate between JFK and Manhattan, both directions and if you’re feeling skint, the cabbie will let you elect to take a free bridge in rather than Queens Manhattan tunnel with surcharge. A taxi is pretty much necessary when coming off long haul because I’m too tired to deal with the MTA and it’s not great with luggage. There’s too much uncertainty going west, I’ve heard horror stories of $200 taxi fares when friends accidentally booked Newark. It negates any saving you had going there in the first place.

    The only people I know who chose EWR either worked downtown on top of the PATH train or live in Jersey.

  71. People always say EWR is as convenient, but it’s just not true, unless maybe you live in midtown Manhattan. The vast majority of people in the metro area do not, and all four of the other boroughs would have a much easier time getting to JFK. I live uptown and it’s cheaper to get to jfk via cab or transit than ewr, even if it takes longer.

  72. I live in Delaware and work in far northeast Philadelphia. For me, it takes half the time to get to EWR vs JFK, but JFK is just easier to deal with. I can park in the south ozone park neighborhood in Queens for free & take the AirTrain for free from the long term station. I probably won’t be flying out of EWR if I can get a flight from JFK for the same price

  73. EWR is an utter dirty nasty unpleasant disgusting dump. I avoid EWR at all costs. The AA and DL terminals @ JFK are far superior to EWR. I mostly fly DL to JFK and LGA. I cannot be arsed with that sh!thole EWR.

  74. I think what’s being missed here is that this is a play for *LAX* corporate contracts like Disney and TImeWarner that they lost when UA dropped JFK. I’ve seen elsewhere that those LA corporate contracts switched to AA, and now AA is pulling back at LAX. There is an opening for UA to get those back, but they want service to the Long Island/JFK side of NYC, which is where I’m sure a lot of their employees and executives live.

    I would expect only a tiny handful of JFK flights from UA, mainly to SFO and LAX. What makes it interesting is that UA has a ton of high-premium configured international widebodies sitting around that they can easily drop on these prestige coast-to-coast routes. I expect a high capacity dump at low prices to punish JetBlue for coming into EWR.

    UA getting a gate or two at JFK is not going to suddenly make them competitive with eastside New Yorkers – they’re going to stick with vastly more service from Delta, JetBlue, or (fading) AA.

  75. FIght to get to Penn Station to take New Jersey Transit NY Penn Station – Newark Airport $15.25 each way where those with luggage always seem to struggle whether it is the older or newer rail cars
    If you are anywhere on the E you can get to the AirTrain for $5.00

  76. While many here have validated what most including UA know about airport preference, the bigger issue clearly seems to be that UA feels they need to get into JFK in order to counter B6′ growth in EWR.
    In reality, UA’s return to JFK will most certainly lead to an expansion of DL at EWR. EWR doesn’t have slots, DL has sufficient facilities at EWR, and DL is not about going to let B6 and UA fly from EWR and JFK to the west coast while DL is just at JFK.
    Net-net UA will be in worse position.
    The bigger strategic mistake on UA’s part is that B6 was given the ability to add extensive flights at EWR. Of course, NYC demand has been terrible but UA was very slow to add capacity back to EWR – until B6 started adding flights.
    DL and UA have had a sort of detente but that will end if UA adds JFK.
    DL has already displaced AA as the largest carrier at LAX. They will add key routes from LAX they don’t add – most of which are AA and UA markets including CLT, PHL, EWR, ORD, IAH and IAD. I firmly believe that UA will lose far more by adding service to JFK because of DL’s growth in UA hub markets than it will gain in new passengers from JFK.

  77. Two words. NEW JERSEY. There are Millions of people in queens, long Island and Brooklyn who wouldn’t touch EWR with a ten foot pole. They would gladly pay much more for a flight, especially an international flight, out of JFK rather than having to deal traffic getting into Manhattan then getting through the Lincoln tunnel then schlepping to Newark, all while battling lots of traffic and high tolls.

  78. The taxi ride from Hell!
    I avoid EWR like the plague. I arrived off a 19 hour total travel flight and sat back in a taxi (registered in Elizabeth, NJ.) I soon realized the taxi did not have working AC on a 99 degree NY summer afternoon. Taxis at EWR are required to have working AC so I did some investigating. It turns out the taxi FAILED inspection a week prior, due to AC not working and brake issues. Nevertheless, the taxi was given permission to operate while the owner planned repairs. As bad as NYC yellow cabs ever were, this was worse.
    This nightmare ride has effectively banned me from EWR. It should be noted that the decrepitness of a taxi at EWR varies by terminal, they are licensed locally and not all terminals are in Elizabeth, N.J. One thing is clear, EWR seems to not care about the safety and comfort of its passengers.

  79. As others have said. EWR is a horror to get to from many parts of NY. By taxi/UBER it is super expensive. By public transit it is difficult; you need to get to Penn station where boarding is a horror and then transfer to monorail. To JFK you can take the subway then transfer to the monorail; it is much easier than going through Penn.

    There are numerous Star Alliance international connections through JFK.

    Last, EWR is a no go for anyone living in Queens or Long Island

  80. One word: Brooklyn. Every year, more and more of New York City’s high-fliers migrate from Manhattan to Brooklyn.

  81. Cost of Uber JFK – Wall Street approx $60

    From EWR $ 85

    IIRC Yellow cabs have a fixed fee from JFK but not EWR. Remember feeling ripped off the time I did fly to EWR.

    Biggest advantage is that there is a more frequent service to/from the U.K. and Europe to JFK than EWR giving far more choice.

  82. JFK is a brand and a cultural icon in America. It is etched into the public awareness in a way Newark could never hope to be. It has a rich history of recognizable and memorable moments and legacies ranging from the arrival of the Beatles to Pan Am. For us Avgeeks and frequent flyers we can throw around the terms “Newark” and “EWR” and recognize them and their significance but a large majority of people would not be aware of what exactly that is or what it means. I’d wager that even many of the New Yorkers that see that “time to EWR” ad on those taxis wouldn’t be aware that they are referring to Newark airport and many non-New Yorkers, both in other parts of America and abroad, probably do not know that Newark is even a city let alone that it is directly adjacent to New York.

  83. As others have pointed out, New York City is much more than just Manhattan. It simply makes no sense for someone from Brooklyn (or Queens) to catch a EWR flight. A Brooklynite has to drive into the city center of NYC, battle all the traffic that comes with driving into Manhattan, then drive via local streets thru Manhattan (there is no highway going crosstown thru Manhattan). Then, after finally entering Manhattan and driving thru Times Square, you got to drive out of Manhattan and battle yet another round of horrid traffic.

    And I’m only talking about Brooklyn and Queens (which for those that don’t know are part of New York City) Once you get outside of NYC, like Long Island, then it’s game over.

    Lucky, going from Brooklyn to EWR is kinda like living 1 hour south of Miami, and taking a flight out or Fort Lauderdale when you can easily fly out of Miami.

  84. I would also like to add that taking public transit to JFK is much, much easier, cheaper, and less stressful than going to EWR.

    If taking a taxi/Uber, JFK also wins hands down. Especially now that NYC is poised to start congestion pricing in 2021, taking a car/taxi/Uber from Brooklyn to EWR will incur congestion pricing for driving thru NYC city center (Manhattan).

    If the past there were plans to create a highway underneath Manhattan that would connect Brooklyn/Queens/Long Island directly with New Jersey so people wouldn’t have to drive via local streets and Times Square. If that highway existed, or if there was a train link between Long Island and New Jersey, then it would be a totally different story.

  85. Could it also be that JetBlue is starting flights from JFK to LHR that United don’t want to miss out on getting slots for their JFK to LHR service

  86. It was a mistake for UA to pull out of JFK and I’d said so at the time. For ‘true’ NYers, the psychology of flying out of EWR was never going to be favorable, no matter how appealing UA tried to make EWR.

    Can’t wait to fly on UA out of JFK again (crediting both RDM and EQM to SQ).

    Possible routes:
    — Return of P.S. to LAX/SFO
    — Daily to/from LHR
    — Daily to/from FRA

    TPAC routes out of JFK would be unlikely.

  87. EWR is not my preference. I do want to correct one misconception. Brooklynites can easily drive to EWR vis Staten Island without the need to traverse Manhattan. There is no need to enter and cross Manhattan.

  88. While someone from Manhattan going on a single flight could use EWR, that makes as much sense as JFK, but there many more disadvantages when your think broadly:

    – people living east of Manhattan, north of Manhattan and going into Connecticut would all choose JFK (if not from the departure, but getting home on the return flight).
    – feeder traffic from other Star Alliance carriers (which all choose JFK as their NYC airport over EWR).
    – feeder traffic from United’s own flights at LGA. While not the easiest commute due to traffic, there is no train option to NYC to connect onto a train to EWR (until a potential Airtrain comes along, but even then the connection to JFK would still be quicker) and going by roads to EWR is significantly more expensive (tolls and distance) and takes longer. Having longhaul flights to connect to at JFK makes a lot of sense.
    – in a pre-COVID world, think large corporate contracts. Very important for regular business travel (will return at some point in the future). These tend to be awarded to the airline or alliance with the best pricing but also network and connections. When a company has a lot of senior executives living outside of Manhattan, they tend to be places that are east and north of Manhattan and also Connecticut, not so much NJ (so back to point 1 above…their vote for a deal would not be EWR).
    – Linked to the point above, once a company links to an alliance for its corporate deal, the mileage programs begin to influence the buying habits for employees personal travel too (mileage earn and burn, loyalty status for potential upgrades, lounge access, early boarding etc.)

    United pulling out of JFK has created a large uphill battle. While EWR is it’s Hub, there are significant downsides when trying to drive new business and regular business.

  89. I live in Manhattan and use EWR as little as possible. It is not equally convenient to JFK. Crossing the GW Bridge or the Lincoln Tunnel at rush hour to get to a Europe bound red eye can take forever. Yes, the Van Wyck usually has traffic but nothing like the tunnel or the bridge and there are many more driving alternatives to get to JFK. JFK gets a bad rap, especially from people who are not regular users but I don’t feel you can’t rate JFK as one airport. It depends on which terminal one usually uses. T1 and T8 are a pleasure at most times. I’m at T7 a lot because I am frequently on BA. Yeah, it’s an old terminal and arriving is not a great pleasure architecturally but it works for frequent travelers. As far as public transportation, yes; there are 3 trains an hour most of the day from Penn Station that connect with the EWR train there’s no space for luggage. Neither airport has really good public transportation, especially with passengers with luggage.

  90. Well, I can think of a number of reasons that UA would make such a move. For one thing, Covid has reset the table so significantly that airlines are trying things that would have previously seemed improbable. And then there are JetBlue’s moves into EWR which UA would certainly see as a provocative move. Bringing service back to JFK would be a strategic slap at JetBlue.

    But there are other factors. As many have pointed out, the NY metro area is huge and EWR doesn’t serve enough of it, geographically. LGA is pretty limited for UA, and that leaves JFK to serve parts of NYC that are east of Central Park. Having flown into JFK, needing to get to midtown Manhattan, I’ve felt that EWR seemed more direct via train and that New Yorkers’ biggest issue with EWR has to do with the fact that it’s east of the river and thus in another “country”. But, I will admit that JFK is easier to get to than EWR from 3 of the boroughs and a toss up from Manhattan. That’s a lot of real estate to cede to everyone else.

    And then there are the plethora of international connections to Star Alliance partners. Especially those airlines that have a more limited service to the USA. I’m sure that they would prefer to serve JFK over EWR. And I’m not going to go through the list (many do serve EWR), but I see a number of the smaller partners that would be more likely to do well out of JFK than EWR. UA once had a pretty robust network from JFK. Although it seems like ancient history, I recall connecting to GRU via JFK on UA in 2001. They had their own terminal back then and served international connections to Europe and Latin America. Of course, that was before their merger with CO – who dominated EWR back then. Perhaps they’ve since decided that they can’t just skip JFK and all those potential customers.

  91. I’m a United Global Services customer and I work (pre-COVID) in Midtown Manhattan, but live in NJ. First, getting to JFK from Northern NJ is really difficult, even at odd hours. Not only are there Manhattan working/NJ living flyers, but there is a strong Pharma industry centered in NJ (get on any ZRH/LHR flight and you will recognize the same people). I also think that the premium Transcon market is pretty well addressed at JFK from both Delta and JetBlue. All of that said, it was still really tough to persuade even my Manhattan dwelling colleagues to try flying in/out of EWR. I think returning to JFK makes some sense for a limited number of LAX/SFO/LHR flights, maybe just to stay competitive with corporate contracts. However, the focus should remain on EWR, in my opinion.

  92. – There’s a little bit of snobbery about not going to New Jersey from New Yorkers but I think there’s also a loyalty about being a New Yorker and flying out the New York airport. Much the way many Seattle-ites like flying Alaska because it’s their “hometown airline”, New Yorkers want to fly out of their hometown airport
    – Most New Yorkers take the subway, which you can take to JFK. Newark you have to do some combination of PATH and NJ Transit, likely with a subway ride thrown in, too. I thought my re-collection of having to do PATH to NJTransit to Airtrain might have been, wrong, but nope, that’s what’s on the Airport’s website.

    New Yorkers want to be on home turf when they land, not across the river in another state with unfamiliar. They know the subway system, it runs 24 hours, they’re familiar with navigating it. The last thing I want to deal with if my flight gets delayed is “NJ Transit train service is not 24/7. Trains run between 6 a.m. and midnight. For 24-hour service, take the PATH train and NJ Transit’s #62 bus.”

    – Newark is an unpleasant airport to fly out of. Maybe the United terminals are better, I’m mostly familiar with Terminal A. My experience there is most of the lounges and restaurants are outside security. The security lines involve standing in a crowded, narrow corridor where the experience feels even longer because the corridor is so long and narrow you can’t see how many people are ahead of you. Once you’re airside you’re stuck in a small area with just one or two places to get food.

    – Like other people have said, outside the five (four?) boroughs, Newark is even more annoying to access for areas east of the Hudson

    – Kind of a dumb reason, but it seems like others like @a2 think similarly. There’s a romance and mystique to JFK that EWR just doesn’t have. Routes like LAX-JFK and JFK-LHR are iconic in a way that Newark isn’t. Newark has that perception of an “off-brand” airport.

  93. @ Ben — For me, it is all about connecting to/from other airlines. Period. Does it make sense for United to try and attract business from people like myself for paid business class JFK-SFO/LAX tickets when I am flying someone else on my connection? Probably not.

  94. I live in both Downtown Brooklyn and Chicago. Fly Transatlantic, Transpacific, and Transcontinental regularly from JFK and ORD. Am one of these people who does not have time to waste in an airport. Am always the one timing my arrival so that I arrive at the gate just as they are calling group 1. Too many uncertainties crossing a bridge or tunnel. Have missed flights to Heathrow trying to get to EWR. At JFK, if I miss the 6 pm on AA, I can get moved to BA. If OneWorld is cooperating I can jump on Delta or Virgin. Ditto for LAX, SFO, HKG, etc. Nothing worse than having to go back home from EWR because you missed a flight and there is not another. I fly UA on my trips btw LGA and ORD, and fly them on long hauls out of ORD, but EWR ain’t JFK!

  95. For getting into and out of Manhattan? Yes, mostly a wash.

    But for those who are in Long Island, Brooklyn, and Queens, I think they would all prefer to commute to JFK given the closer proximity.

  96. I recently relocated from San Francisco to Northern New England rather regularly fly UA/Star Alliance to South-East Asia and East and Central Africa. I just can’t believe how obnoxious it is to connect on the east coast. Almost all of the Star Alliance partners I need are at JFK or have better flight times at JFK than EWR. So my only options are flying UA to EWR and then going by train or uber/taxi to JFK, or flying Jet Blue. It is crazy that it is easier for me to connect from JetBlue to the Star Alliance network than from UA. It is a major problem.

  97. @Andrew Terminal C is not amazing or anything, but it’s fine, and vastly better than Terminals A and B, which should be condemned.

  98. I live on the upper west side of manhattan and I’ve made it to EWR in less than 30 minutes during low traffic periods…. and I still prefer JFK by a pretty decent margin. Nicer airport, better facilities, and gems like the new TWA hotel make it way more appealing, not to mention the superior transit options and taxi pricing.

  99. Kennedy is far more convenient for Long Islanders unless you are close to LGA on the North Shore (Great Neck etc.). It’s more convenient to Brooklyn.

    Better/more numerous transatlantic connection options.

  100. For all everyone has already said it bears repeating that Brooklyn’s explosive growth among high income New Yorkers, especially in Downtown Brooklyn, has to be a factor. Until recently I lived in Downtown BK, and to be honest, JFK was often easier than LGA (especially during the construction that made arriving by car a nightmare). You can hop on an LIRR train from Atlantic Terminal (near the Barclays Center), which is a far more civilized operation than Penn Station and be at the AirTrain in 20-30 minutes and the A train didn’t take that much longer. I once did door to door from my apartment to the terminal in under an hour.

  101. @Gary Leff pretty much nailed it.

    This has nothing to do with traffic originating in NYC. It has to do with the West Coast.

    People who live on the West Coast simply don’t want to fly into New Jersey when they are going to New York regardless of relative convenience. They can’t fly into LGA non-stop so it’s JFK or EWR. They choose JFK and UA now knows that.

    The LAX and SFO flights are also high revenue flights and high prestige. UA surrendered that to AA and DL.

    I expect to see UA resume some PS flights from SFO and LAX to JFK, while keeping most of the flights to EWR for connection purposes.

    Maybe one flight a day to LHR, but that’s it.

  102. I think this is all about AA pulling back at LAX. UA made a huge mistake with LA UA fliers by cutting that route. UA sees this as an opportunity to get contracts back. They will probably lose money on this – but now they realize that LA contracts require LAX to JFK flights.

    They also must get pressure from other star alliance members about not having a presence at JFK. It’s just weird that UA is such a global airline with no presence at JFK.

  103. I have always hated JFK and I think the US should be embarrassed that it is the first thing that millions of tourists see when they first arrive (I feel this way about LAX too lol). That being said, I’ve never been to EWR. With my opinion of JFK being so low already and after reading all of these negative comments about EWR, I don’t even want to imagine what the current state of EWR is like.

  104. As a Manhattan resident, JFK is awful. There is a reason there is a Seinfeld episode about getting to JFK from Manhattan, because its something everyone has experienced (classic scene, google “elaine’s gold medal run to the airport”).

    Plus the train to EWR is so much easier. The NJT app is dated but works, buy your ticket on the app and run onto the train last minute, and there are trains every 3-5 mins at peak, super easy. Plus its closer. That said, I do get that if you are on Long Island, even in DUMBO, getting into and then across Manhattan sucks and JFK is probably easier.

  105. United is returning to Terminal 7 with British Airways limited flights. Being T7 redevelopment is on hold and the Terminal will be there for the next five years United can get their footprint back in JFK. And would need limited support staff.

  106. Reasons why I never fly out of Newark: the monorail is unreliable, weekend service for the train is terrible, the terminals I end up in generally feel old and dumpy, and traffic can be a nightmare.

    With JFK’s Airtrain more reliable, the public transit time is easier to plan around. Although my top pick for short domestic flights will always be LGA.

  107. Getting to/from EWR from anywhere on Long Island (which includes NYC Boroughs Brooklyn & Queens) requires crossing 2 rivers (as in a minimum of 2 often very congested bridges &/tunnels; some with high tolls) & then driving through at least one other NYC Borough (The Bronx, Manhattan or Staten Island).

    From Long Island’s suburban counties, Nassau & Suffolk, for most that means Long Island Expressway, Van Wyck Expressway, Cross Island Parkway, Northern/Southern State Parkways or Grand Central Parkway to 1 of 3 bridges, each expensive, & both requiring drives on often traffic clogged expressways (Cross Bronx/Major Deegan/Bruckner/Staten Island/BQE Expressways, anyone?) just to get to another bridge to cross the Hudson River (the toll for the Hudson River Crossings are charged 1-way eastbound from NJ into NY, but they run $16 cash; $13.75 peak/$11.75 off-peak w/EZPass)

    And you’d have to be flat out crazy to even think about trying to driving through Manhattan via any of the four “free” (59th Street/Ed Koch/Queensboro; Williamsburg; Manhattan; Brooklyn) Bridges & then plodding along in 5 MPH crosstown traffic just to spend more time snaking into the ramps leading into the Holland (downtown/lower Manhattan) or Lincoln (midtown, west of Times Square) Tunnels to get to Newark (unless very early on Saturday or Sunday [& major holiday except Thanksgiving] mornings).

    You just wouldn’t – unless you’re a Masochist (or a Sadist if you did that to others!), that is.

    And, fact is, while EWR is easier for those who are on the west side (like me!) for those who live on the East Side – & especially the UPPER East Side which is among the most affluent sections of NYC – JFK is by far much easier (& cheaper) to get by car/ride share than Newark, while JFK is still easier to get to/from from most points on the East Side, especially the further East one is (5th, Madison, Park, Lexington, 3rd, 2nd, 1st (& others East of 1st in some parts) Avenues than Newark will ever be once the 5 MPH crawl across Manhattan to either of the 2 Hudson River tunnels is factored in. (Or vice versa if arriving at EWR).

    As to mass transit, while personally, I find BOTH AirTrains at JFK & EWR airports to be VASTLY INFERIOR & an outright EMBARRASSMENT to a city that fancies itself the “Capital of the World” when compared to the 1-seat, 1-fare rail options found in some USA cities (Chicago, for example, has CTA “L” trains at both Midway & O’Hare airports while Washington, DC has the Metro at DCA) & especially when compared to say Hong Kong’s awesome Airport Express train, which takes just 24 minutes to get to/from Central on Hong Kong Island – a distance of ~25 miles/~40 km vs JFK’s ~15/~24 km or EWR’s ~14 miles/~22 km – for ~$15 USD to/from platforms literally steps away from the terminal, or of course the many world capitals that have exceptional public transit options (Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris, Tokyo, even London [Heathrow’s can be a bit of a walk – but Gatwick has lots of rail OPTIONS, too], just to cite but a few), if it’s a choice between the “LEAST AWFUL”/less crappy of the 2 exceptionally awful & crappy “Silly Little Trolleys” (aka our 3rd rate “AirTrains” – btw, the NY Daily News called the proposed LGA AirTrain the “Silly Little Trolley” last year in an editorial urging voters/taxpayers & government officials to *NOT* waste $2.5+ billion building – & that was long BEFORE Covid19 emerged), then the “winner” is JFK’s “Silly Little Trolley” if only because the ‘Trolley’ at EWR is prone to breaking down, & after that happened TWICE, with one incident having us trapped inside the tiny capsule on an hot day for about 30 mins between stations, & then dumped out at the furthest station from Terminal C (after boarding at the NJ Transit station) dragging our bags the rest of the way along/crossing busy roadways as we raced to the terminal to avoid missing our flight (my partner had Polio as a toddler & has reduced mobility, which only made that very long trek especially difficult & painful for him) so horrible & unreliable.

    In fact, the “Silly Little Trolley” (er AirTrain) at EWR is so bad, that after that last incident when it broke down, we won’t even consider using it anymore & instead take the Newark Airport Express bus since we live in Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen anyway.

    But, make no mistake, sometimes they use very old buses & when they do, it can be a bumpy, diesel fume-y ride for that.

    So, JFK’s “Silly Little Trolley” is “better” than EWR’s – but that’s NOT saying much when considering the VASTLY SUPERIOR Raul options commonly found elsewhere around the world.

    And for $7.75 each way now, it’s hardly “cheap” for the nasty station at Jamaica with its 1-directional only escalators that SUCK if you’re heading in the “wrong” direction (especially for those with reduced mobility who do NOT require wheelchairs, but for whom steep steps with baggage are a no go).

    Lastly, as many others have already noted, parts of Brooklyn, Queens & many towns on Long Island are very affluent & as someone who grew up in one of them, & who worked at a travel agency (that’s still around!) for many years known for its affluent clientele (corporate & personal), including well known celebrities (then as now), for sure FEW, if any, could ever be “sold” on using EWR for their flights.

    As to terminals, doubtful for T8.

    T1 is partly owned by United’s anti-trust immunized joint venture partner, Lufthansa (& will remain so even after the proposed $13 billion JFK terminal redevelopment of/whenever that happens), so my best guess is that United would operate there (T1) with Delta predominant at T4 & JetBlue’s T5 being the only remaining option.

    If anything, the $13 billion JFK terminal redevelopment plan envisions the existing terminals 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 & 8 being consolidated into just 3 (large shopping malls with gates) er terminals, with T1 being controlled by the current owners, Terminal One Group Association – aka “TOGA” (which is a joint venture of Air France, Japan Airlines, Korean Airlines & Lufthansa), T4 remaining controlled by JFK IAT/Schiphol with Delta Air Lines the predominant tenant & T5 remaining controlled by JetBlue.

    Of course, that’s all if/when the $13 billion terminal redevelopment obtains funding & gets underway beyond the modest expansion/renovation of AA’s T8 where BA was scheduled to move pre-Covid19 pandemic in Fall, 2022 is completed, with BA’s T7 & Delta’s underutilized T2 expected time be torn down if/when the JFK redevelopment is completed.

    As to aligned airlines, it would seem logical for Star Alliance carriers to consolidate at Lufthansa’s base at T1 – but who knows for sure with alliance airlines from all of the 3 major alliances scattered among JFK’s separate terminals, such as ANA being housed at T7, Asiana & SWISS at T4, or of course, Lufthansa & Austrian at T1 pre-pandemic.

    Or perhaps, Korean Airlines yet still at T1 while its anti-trust joint venture partner, Delta, is at T4 – which makes connections between those airlines as bad as changing terminals at London/Heathrow ().

    Ditto, of course, applies to ANY change of terminals at JFK (except perhaps between T2 & T4 where Delta had an airside bus pre-pandemic with T2 temporarily closed until further notice).

    Anyhow, while some suggest EWR is shunned simply because it’s in New Jersey, in the end while that may be a factor for some travelers, for most (especially those who live in NY Tri-State [NY, NJ, CT] region) it’s likely more a matter of accessibility to the nearest/quickest airport than anything else, with those who live/work on East Side of Manhattan, or Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau/Suffolk, Westchester & SW Connecticut [Stamford, Greenwich, etc.] likely to favor LGA/JFK over EWR & New Jerseyan’s/Rockland & Orange Counties west of the Hudson River likely time favor EWR over LGA/EWR.

    Sure, some (like me) may use all 3 airports, but that’s usually because there’s far more domestic flights under 1,500 miles on Delta operating at LGA than at JFK, while most beyond perimeter flights on Delta are at JFK & my partner prefers Delta as he has found it to consistently offer the best assistance as reduced mobility passenger.

    Meanwhile, with the company he works for more United centric & me having a pile of miles from our flights on UA together – or those I’ve flown solo, we also use EWR quite a bit, too, as it’s actually the closest & easiest airport for us be it by ride share or, as noted earlier, the sometimes fume-y & dumpy bus that stops a few blocks from our apartment (which is near the ramps to the Lincoln Tunnel).

    In a perfect world, if United were as good an airline as Delta is, dumpy bus & all we’d probably fly that airline via EWR more often than we do.

    But, with Delta far & away the much better airline, even if LGA & JFK are no where near as convenient for us as EWR is, the additional time & hassle required for us to use LGA & JFK usually is enough to make Delta the preferred carrier in our home.

    However, some of our United flights at good fares for domestic 1st have actually been quite good (pre-pandemic) in the post-Dr. Dao dragging era.

    So, as long as we can avoid UA’s awful economy (even E+ is bad compared to DL’s C+) EWR is a viable alternative to LGA & JFK on Delta.

    But, only when UA’s domestic 1st fares make it a worthwhile proposition as we flew enough in recent years to earn free baggage check (which is NOT an optional “perk”/“luxury” for my partner due to his reduced mobility) & advanced seat selection in the preferred rows (although my partner requires C+ for flights longer than 2 hours due to extreme cramping that otherwise occurs in the leg most impacted by Polio which has very limited independent mobility, which we lack at United.

    Besides, United’s E+ is not as attractive as DL’s C+ (or at least in pre-pandemic era).

    Anyhow, that’s our perspective on NYC’s 3-major airports.

    As to the point regarding UA’s return to JFK next year, most of the comments apply – except to a lesser extent that it’s just “snobbery” that EWR is in NJ instead of NY.

    Especially since we have also found the food & beverage options at UA’s terminal C at EWR (until recently anyway), vastly superior to LGA & certainly superior T1, T7 & even T8 at JFK.

    But, really, it’s for most, it’s more about geography & travel times/roadways than anything else.

    And with many companies having employees who live in: Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester & SW Connecticut, forcing them to use EWR for nonstop transcons is going to be a dealbreaker as for sure they’re so NOT going to want to undertake the multi-bridge/tunnel 2-river crossings required to get to/from EWR airport.

    Having done that once when I still lived on Long Island, it only takes doing that once to NEVER, EVER do that again.

    Yeah, it’s THAT bad!

  108. Are you seriously asking this question of why JFK over Newark? For starters the majority of NYers don’t live in Manhattan. I live in Brooklyn and would never consider crossing the Hudson for a flight. Why do that when JFK airport offers the world of options and its only 30 to 45 minutes away.
    United moving back to JFK is a smart business decision. For me personally, United is dead last in preference so this won’t affect my decision on who I fly with anyway.

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