Come February 2021 United Airlines will once again be able to say it serves all three major New York City Airports. The carrier will launch transcon service from JFK to its hubs at San Francisco and Los Angeles on the first of the month.
I have been waiting a long time to say this – United Airlines is back at JFK. Come early next year, we will be serving all three major New York City area airports with a best-in-class product to provide our customers unmatched transcontinental service from New York City and the west coast.– United CEO Scott Kirby
The carrier will operate each route twice a day, with a morning and evening westbound service. Eastbound the flights will leave either morning or early afternoon. There will be no redeye flights on the routes initially.
United will operate the flights using its “High J” configuration 767-300ER planes. This layout includes 46 business class seats. The aircraft also features 22 United Premium Plus® seats, 47 Economy Plus® seats and 52 Economy seats. The premium-heavy configuration speaks to the market as well as where demand is returning more quickly. With the higher premium cabin capacity United can capture a larger share of the higher yielding traffic.
Indeed, as traffic numbers start to tick higher the transcon markets are seeing relatively strong premium demand. And United has plenty of the High-J 767s that need new markets to ply as the international routes they were previously targeting remain closed to US visitors.
The 767s also open opportunities for containerized cargo on the route, connecting onward to the company’s global network on the west coast. Singapore Airlines recently resumed its non-stop service to New York and chose JFK over Newark for cargo reasons. Presumably United can similarly benefit from what the company describes as “robust” cargo demand on the other side of Manhattan.
The flights will operate from Terminal 7 at JFK, the same as where the carrier was operating until it left the airport in 2015. This time around, however, the carrier does not have its own lounge in the terminal for passengers. Presumably either British Airways or Alaska Airlines (in the former United Club space) will agree to a contract for those business class passengers when their lounges reopen.
The JFK market United is returning to remains very different from the one it abandoned five years ago. At that time JetBlue had just launched its Mint premium product, delivering the best business class product crossing the country and slashing fares charged. While Mint is still a great product the fares to San Francisco and Los Angeles have continually pushed upwards, at least prior to the pandemic. And JetBlue made a move to bring Mint to Newark earlier this year, even with the pandemic depressing demand.
Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines also operate on the routes making them some of the most competitive in the country. How the yields and loads play out with this returning service will be an interesting experiment. But the planes are paid off at this point, making it a relatively low risk proposition financially for the company.
The only thing missing for the return is a Tulip on the tail. Maybe it is time for a new retrojet design to take flight??
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