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
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.
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?