Update: United is now selling tickets from JFK to Los Angeles and San Francisco for flights starting on 2/1/21!
They will fly from JFK to Los Angeles at 9am and 7pm and from JFK to San Francisco at 8am and 5:10pm.
They will fly from Los Angeles to JFK at 7:30am and 2:30pm and from San Francisco to JFK at 9:10am and 1:30pm.
Flights start at just $88 in coach and $387 in business class.
United will operate their premium-heavy 767-300ER on the route. These planes were designed for routes like Newark-London, but there is little premium demand on that route currently. The plane has 46 Polaris business class seats, 22 Premium Plus seats, 47 Economy Plus seats, and 52 Economy Minus seats. That’s an incredibly premium heavy plane for this route!
Interestingly, they won’t fly any red-eyes from the west coast to JFK, at least initially. They will add that if demand calls for it, but they’ll also need to find airlines willing to sell their JFK slots for that that of arrival.
United will operate out of JFK’s terminal 7, the same terminal that they used to fly from out of JFK. Terminal 7 is slotted to be closed permanently in the coming years, so clearly this will be a temporary home.
There’s no word yet on whether United will open a lounge in JFK as they used to have.
This comes after United added flights from LaGuardia and other airports to several Florida airports. United is clearly thinking its’ NYC presence needs to be more than just Newark!
Will JFK to London be next?
Originally posted on 9/29:
At the time the airline was managed by Jeff Smisek, who was brought on by Continental to merge with United and then relentlessly cut costs at the merged airline. He was deeply unpopular among employees, passengers, and shareholders, but it took a federal scandal to take him down.
The JFK flights themselves were money losers and Mr. Smisek argued the airline has no choice but to retreat after sustaining heavy losses from the airport.
In 2006 United ended flights from JFK to Tokyo and London. In 2014 they eliminated service between JFK and Washington D.C. And in 2015 they killed off all JFK service when they ended their transcontinental premium service to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
When United killed off 3 cabin first class on the route, it made it especially hard for them to compete with American, which still offers 3 cabin transcontinental first class.
“Of course Smisek’s motto is “Ultimately, we can’t create demand, but we do have a responsibility to react to it.” As in, why proactively improve our first class product to compete when we can just reactively decide that it’s not profitable and eliminate it.
The irony is that Gordon Bethune, one of the most popular airline CEOs of all time, wrote in his excellent book “From Worst to First” exactly how that kind of reactionary thinking is what nearly drove Continental out of business is the early 90s. Or as he put it, “You can make a pizza so cheap, nobody will eat it. You can make an airline so cheap, nobody will fly it.”
Smisek may think that United is unable to create demand. The truth is that they’re quite adept these days at driving away premium demand.”
Indeed, United’s current CEO Scott Kirby was at American at the time. He said that it was his primary goal to push United out of JFK and it was a big win when they were able to do that.
What Mr. Smisek didn’t factor into the calculation was the bigger picture, that they would lose massive corporate contracts from companies with travelers that refused to fly into Newark. So while the routes themselves may have been money losers, they were profitable to the airline as a whole as it allowed them to retain corporate contracts that bailed when they left JFK. Other elite flyers also left due to United abandoning JFK, which hurt the airline’s network as a whole.
Pre-pandemic, buying back slots in JFK was too pricey to justify, but those prices have plummeted and now CNBC reports that United will re-enter JFK in 2021!
The JFK news comes after United announced plans to launch its first non-hub flights in years, such as LaGuardia and Boston to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando, and Tampa.
I’d assume that service between JFK to Los Angeles and San Francisco will be on the table.
Will this move make you switch business back to United?