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United to Pull Out of New York-JFK in October

The airline says the pullback is temporary

by Dan Booth

October 7, 2022

United Airlines 737 Max 9 / Photo: Courtesy of United Airlines

United Airlines will “temporarily” suspend New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport services as of October 29. The airline blamed the pullback on the limited number of slots allotted at JFK.

In September, United had signaled its intention to drop operating out of the New York airport if the Federal Aviation Administration failed to give them more takeoff and landing capacity.

United operates just twice daily to San Francisco and Los Angeles from JFK after resuming service in 2021.

Via an internal memo, the airline noted that given its “too-small-to-be-competitive schedule out of JFK” together with the imminent start of the winter season, “more airlines will operate their slots as they resume JFK flying.”

This is not United’s first time pulling out of its Kennedy operations. In 2015, the airline struck a long-term deal to lease 24 year-round slots at JFK to its competitor, Delta Air Lines, as it focused on its nearby Newark hub. United also flies out of LaGuardia.

The airline says the current move will impact about 100 employees, but “no one is losing their job,” as most will be repositioned to nearby United operations.

United says it has been working with the FAA to secure additional slots and agreements with other carriers. However, while the airline characterized the discussions with the FAA as “constructive,” the memo clarified that the “process to add additional capacity at JFK will take some time.”

In urging the FAA to expand JFK’s capacity, the airline points out the airport tops at 81 operations per hour—a figure that has remained unchanged since 2008 despite the facility’s four runways and new infrastructure under construction. According to FAA statistics, that compares to Newark’s recommended capacity of 79 operations per hour.

“The FAA is dedicated to doing its part to expand New York City airports and airspace capacity safely,” the agency said in a statement. “We are encouraged United will retain and relocate its JFK staff to its other New York City airports.”