Official: United Airlines Launching Flights From JFK To LAX & SFO

Filed Under: United

Several weeks ago it was announced that United Airlines would return to New York’s JFK Airport after suspending operations there in October 2015. We now have more details about what we can expect, as the first routes have been announced.

United Airlines resuming JFK flights

United Airlines will be resuming flights out of New York JFK as of February 1, 2021, as the airline intends to serve both Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO). These are the exact same mainline routes the airline operated when it pulled out of the airport.

United will fly from JFK to both LAX & SFO

United Airlines will initially operate two daily roundtrip flights on each of the routes — one in the morning in each direction, and one in the afternoon/evening in each direction, with no redeyes.

These flights are already bookable, and interestingly United hasn’t reduced its schedule out of EWR to LAX and SFO, at least as of now.

United’s new JFK to LAX route

United will operate the following New York to Los Angeles frequencies:

UA515 New York to Los Angeles departing 9:00AM arriving 12:29PM
UA517 New York to Los Angeles departing 7:00PM arriving 10:29PM

UA514 Los Angeles to New York departing 7:30AM arriving 3:50PM
UA516 Los Angeles to New York departing 2:30PM arriving 10:50PM

United will fly twice daily between JFK & LAX

United’s new JFK to SFO route

United will operate the following New York to San Francisco frequencies:

UA521 New York to San Francisco departing 8:00AM arriving 11:37AM
UA523 New York to San Francisco departing 5:10PM arriving 8:47PM

UA520 San Francisco to New York departing 9:10AM arriving 5:40PM
UA522 San Francisco to New York departing 1:30PM arriving 10:00PM


United will fly twice daily between JFK & SFO

United will use premium 767-300s for JFK flights

United Airlines will exclusively be using its premium Boeing 767-300s for JFK flights. These planes are in a premium heavy configuration, with just 167 seats, as follows:

  • 46 Polaris business class seats
  • 22 Premium Plus premium economy seats
  • 47 Economy Plus extra legroom economy seats
  • 52 economy class seats

See here for a review of the United 767-300 that will be used for these routes.

United’s 767-300 Polaris business class

United will fly out of JFK Terminal 7

United will operate out of JFK’s Terminal 7, which was the same terminal it used to fly out of back in the day. However, the old United Club in the terminal has since been converted into an Alaska Lounge. The only other lounge in the terminal is the British Airways Lounge.

I’ll be curious to see what kind of lounge access United is able to offer customers, given that I could see neither of those airlines being particularly cooperate with United (Alaska competes with United in the market, and British Airways has a joint venture with American).

The Alaska Lounge JFK is in the space of the former United Club

United’s pricing & award availability

As you’d expect, United is entering these markets with some excellent pricing. Economy starts at $110 one-way, while business class starts at $469 one-way.

I can’t help but feel United still hasn’t really figured out premium economy pricing, as it’s just $50 cheaper than business class. Perhaps it’s a topic for another post, but in general US airlines haven’t really gotten pricing right (in both cash and points) for premium economy, in my opinion.

United’s 767-300 Premium Plus premium economy

There’s even tons of award availability, and most flights have at least four business class award seats. This is a fantastic opportunity to snag an award on a premium transcon flight, which can otherwise be difficult.

United’s advantages and disadvantages at JFK

The way I see it, United Airlines has one significant advantage and several signifiant disadvantages with its return to JFK.

On the plus side, United’s onboard product is exceptional. Getting new Polaris seats on flights between JFK and the West Coast will be great for consumers, and United also offers the only true coast-to-coast premium economy product.

United’s 767-300 business class

United’s 767-300 business class is significantly better than American’s A321T business class.

American’s A321T business class

But then there are also quite a few disadvantages that United has:

  • United is operating this route twice daily, while historically American has operated up to a dozen daily frequencies in the market
  • I’m not sure what United’s lounge situation will be, but it won’t be competitive to what’s offered by American
  • United will have to fight hard to win back corporate business, since presumably much of it has switched to American and Delta in recent years

Then again, perhaps the pandemic is a great time to restart service at JFK, because some of American’s advantages don’t exist right now — the airline is flying the route only twice a day, and its Flagship Lounge is closed.

Bottom line

It’s really happening — United Airlines will return to JFK as of February 1, 2021, with four daily transcontinental flights. United will be using premium 767-300s for the route, featuring an excellent onboard product.

I’m curious to see how much success United has at JFK, as the airline does have some disadvantages, but the pandemic does minimize the impact of some of those.

United spent years trying to convince flyers that EWR is as convenient as JFK, and I guess that message never really quite got through…

Do you think United will succeed at JFK? How much growth are you expecting?

Comments
  1. That’s not the way corporate contracts work. Corporate contracts in general are for an entire book of business, not just for one or two markets. It would be exceedingly unlikely for a customer such as a JPMorgan or a PWC or Accenture or etc etc to entirely drop United because they pulled out of JFK a few years ago. Most likely, United and the companies that really relied on JFK-California renegotiated their contract terms so as not penalize heavy users of JFK-California, and United probably gave them incentives/discounts to switch some of their business to Newark. But losing a whole corporate contract? Not likely.

  2. This is great. Corporate contracts??? Literally soo soo few people are traveling from Nyc for business.

    If any area is conservative in regards to travel it’s Nyc.

  3. Don’t forget JetBlue. Arguably the best product on a transcon if you get a suite seat. Although no lounge. United has a lot of rebuilding to do to compete with all the players in JFK.

  4. Right now American’s advantage is that they are serving hot meals in J class. As far as I know none of the other carriers are doing this. United would need to bring this back in order to be competitive

  5. Good to see UA putting a real effort by putting 767 on the route will definitely be welcome by those looking to rest

  6. Bring back hot meals and real service and I’ll book a flight on this route using Lifemiles in a heartbeat. Until then, no dice.

  7. Alaska and United already have an agreement for Alaska Lounge members to use United lounges at some airports (ex: DCA, PHX, PHL, MSP) so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see United use Alaska’s lounge in Terminal 7.

  8. @Andrew – Flew SFO-EWR J red-eye last week. Two hot food options (buffalo mac and cheese and some ravioli). On other non-premium flights, United is also offering hot food (sandwich) or a snack box.

  9. Agree that the pricing of Premium Econ seems a bit out of whack, although at EWR, there is more price discrepancy for closer-in bookings and as lower priced business inventory sells out.

    Perhaps as more and more flights offer PE, UA will work to optimize PE revenues on the transcons. It’s a nice product, currently offering the same meal as business (which, although hot, is not that great for the most part).

  10. Just checked LifeMiles site, starting in February JFK to SFO/LAX and back are available for booking. JFK to HNL can happen in United all business for 40k LifeMiles each way with one stop in west coast, with less than $50 in taxes and fees!

  11. I know we can find out how much $$ they poured in to EWR, but would love to know how much they spent on EWR marketing over the years.

  12. T7 is getting knocked down in like a year and a half as part of JFK’s renovation. BA are moving into T8 with AA. Kind of an interesting choice in that regard; probably the cheapest space available to relaunch their transcon operation on a budget. Modulo whatever agreement UA may have with AS, I wouldn’t expect them to invest anything into lounges and such when the current accommodation is so temporary. (I mean, I wouldn’t.)

  13. I agree that they dont know what theyre doing with premium economy.

    I flew it once last December because it was one of those weird cases where it was CHEAPER than economy using miles. I thought it was nice… but like $50 premium over E+ nice, not $50 below business nice.

  14. @Ah – SFO/LAX-EWR require points, so likely the same here. With that said, upgrades are nearly guaranteed if you do have the points these days.

  15. “I’ll be curious to see what kind of lounge access United is able to offer customers, given that I could see neither of those airlines being particularly cooperate with United (Alaska competes with United in the market, and British Airways has a joint venture with American).”

    Umm…Alaska and United have lounge agreements already in several airports (for AS flyers)

  16. @Alex – no different than the EWR-LAX/SFO routes – 20 points to both PE and J

    Should be a muchmuchmuch easier UG though out of JFK

  17. LOL @ “Bring back hot meals and real service and I’ll book a flight on this route using Lifemiles in a heartbeat. Until then, no dice.”

    I’m sure that’s what United had in mind.

    In other news, I don’t think UA has to work too much to “win back” business. They’ve still been serving NYC, albeit from another, more inconvenient airport.

    I would imagine their larger customer bases in LA and SF are the ones who are truly looking forward to these routes. And over time, by osmosis, the UA flyers in NYC who use LGA and EWR will catch on that there is a JFK option for the west coast.

  18. Terminal 1 would have made more sense to offer connections to LH and Austrian. Plus solves the lounge issue. With those times, should have been easy to get a gate at T1 since off-peak for transatlantic flights.

  19. ANA uses the BA lounge at T7 so that would make more sense. Anything for extra revenue… hope they bring back one of the Tokyo flights to JFK once they return to 2 flights. It is a long haul fro CT to NJ!

  20. The departure times are really bad. I own a business in SF and frequently (not lately ofc) fly to NYC to meet clients. I usually take the Monday/Tuesday midnight B6 flight, land around 730am, and go to meetings all day, get a hotel for one night, meetings the next day and then red eye back home. This way I only need 1 night of hotel and I’m only away from my family for 2 nights. A 1pm departure gets me to NYC at 10, which just requires an extra night in a hotel room for no good reason and doesn’t allow me to get home after my meetings.

    b6 and AA are still crushing them here. I wish Delta would come to SFO.

  21. @ Sammy — The issue is that Alaska has five transcon flights scheduled out of JFK before 10AM. The lounge can seat at most 100 people. United’s planes have 46 business class seats each, so we’re talking about 92 United passengers in the morning, not including United Club members.

    I’m not sure the lounge could handle that number of passengers, not even accounting for needing to reduce capacity due to coronavirus.

  22. @ ChrisC — That hasn’t been decided yet. There’s going to be a lot of consolidating if/when those terminal changes happen.

  23. Eek the LA to NY times are horrible. 7:30am is way too early and the other flight getting in at 10:50pm is too late. I could see myself taking the 9am from JFK back but the other one gets in LA late as well.

  24. @Lucky

    You’re right about the weird pricing of PE deserving a whole post of its own. With just $50 difference between lowest fare PE and lowest fare J class, it’s a crazy, crazy proposition.

  25. Don’t understand the complaints about times – they are pretty much perfect (at least ex-JFK). Either 1) leave crack of dawn and arrive west coast in time for afternoon meetings/fun or 2) have a full day work in NYC then fly out.

  26. Eastbound departures in the middle of the afternoon are a waste of time. Why not a redeye? Of course, no arrival lounge in JFK would be a bit of a problem.

  27. I personally disagree on the times, but may be my personal circumstances. I’m over doing red-eyes eastbound — just not productive the next day. So prefer the afternoon flight that gets me into NYC close to midnight. Lets me work an east coast hours day in LA/SF, not miss many meetings or calls while I fly, and arrive in time to sleep 6 hours overnight. Then for the first full day in NYC, I’m fully productive. But thats just me as someone who works east coast hours regardless.

    It’s only the eastbound morning departure that doesn’t make sense to me because they waste the whole day. Maybe there are others that the times work for, like those in the entertainment business. The other times I could see working for me nicely.

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