United pulls up wheels at JFK this fall

By Sadef Ali Kully

United Airlines announced that it would leave John F. Kennedy International Airport permanently by Oct. 25 and move its West Coast daily flights to Newark Liberty International Airport.

Located in Terminal 7 at JFK, United Airlines said it plans on selling its JFK flight slots. Delta Air Lines plans to acquire United’s JFK flight slots in a swap arrangement under which United would acquire Delta’s flight slots in Newark. Each transaction is subject to regulatory approval.

United currently has 15 daily flights to San Francisco and up to 14 daily flights to Los Angeles from Newark Airport. At JFK, it has seven daily flights to San Francisco and six daily flights to Los Angeles.

Despite its move from JFK, United said it would maintain a significant presence at LaGuardia Airport, where the airline flies 37 daily departures to several of its domestic hubs, including Chicago, Denver, Houston and Washington-Dulles.

United said the airlines was not serving enough passengers with the current options.

“For our West Coast passengers, the Kennedy service was effectively terminating their trip,” Rahsaan Johnson, spokesman for United Airlines, said.

“JFK has been unprofitable for the last seven years for United,” Johnson said. “With the extent of operations at Newark, we can provide for more customers, provide more service and do it profitably.”

United Airlines’ JFK employees will have the option of either relocating to another airport or leaving the company altogether, Johnson said.

“The introduction of premium service to Newark Liberty, the New York/Newark region’s premier airport, offers Los Angeles and San Francisco travelers the highest levels of service in the air and on the ground,” said Jim Compton, United’s vice chairman and chief revenue officer. “We are investing in the three critical components of the travel experience for our customers—our network, our product and our facilities.”

United said that beginning Oct. 25, all regularly scheduled Newark-Los Angeles and Newark-San Francisco flights will offer flat-bed seats, more extra-legroom Economy Plus seats than any other carrier, in-flight Wi-Fi and personal on-demand entertainment with individual seat-back monitors and power ports for customers in every row.

The airline also said it will make a multimillion-dollar investment to renovate United’s Terminal C lobby at Newark and bring its new airport lounge design concept to all United Club locations at Newark Liberty.

United offers nearly 500 daily departures from the region to more than 150 destinations. United Airlines and United Express operate an average of nearly 5,000 flights a day to 373 airports across six continents.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skully@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.