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United Contemplates Return to JFK After Five Year Hiatus

United aircraft at San Francisco International Airport (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ben Suskind)

After its five-year absence at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, United Airlines has plans to resume flights from what is one of the busiest airports in the U.S. Flights could begin as early as the beginning of 2021, according to CNBC. Given the uncertainty in the airline industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic, United can allocate its resources to reinforce its New York and East Coast network through a different airport, but the airline’s future endeavors will not be without obstacles. 

Since United left JFK and relocated to Newark, New Jersey, in 2015, the airline’s major competitors, Delta and American have  strengthened their operations out of the area alongside their international partners. In addition, the question still remains whether United will be able to receive slots at the already-bustling and tightly regulated airport. 

In the meantime, the heart of United’s New York and East Coast operations lie in Newark; United is the sole airline to give Newark, a hub status. In addition, the airline’s connection with Newark has been prosperous, yet at times turbulent, relationship. 

Throughout the five years that the Chicago-based carrier has operated Newark as one of its major hubs, it has expanded its European and Caribbean operations to include several unique destinations such as Nice, France; Palermo, Italy; Willemstad, Curaçao and others. It still remains uncertain whether or not the carrier will continue to operate at its international current capacity, especially its newest routes, due to the increased competition once it shifts to JFK. However, in some cases, United is the only U.S. carrier to fly to certain unique destinations, boosting its attractiveness to travelers passing through JFK.

Along with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, United has invested a massive amount of money into renovating and revamping Terminal C, its home in Newark, a move that could immensely impact the airline once they resume flights at JFK. Renovations include a brand-new Polaris lounge that closely aligns with its premium product, United Polaris.

The airline’s premium product has played a pivotal role in its growth in Newark. When to move back to JFK, United will have to attract business travelers in a new market to compete with its biggest foes, Delta and American. 

Nonetheless, its relationship in Newark was turbulent as, back in 2018, the airline threatened to abandon Newark as a hub if New Jersey lawmakers proposed a bill that would eliminate a major tax exemption on fuel that, according to OneMileAtATime, would have been solely directed at United. 

Benjamin Pham


  • Benjamin Pham

    Benjamin has had a love for aviation since a young age, growing up in Tampa with a strong interest in airplane models and playing with them. When he moved to the Washington, D.C. area, Benjamin took part in aviation photography for a couple of years at Gravelly Point and Dulles Airport, before dedicating planespotting to only when he traveled to the other airports. He is an avid, world traveler, having been able to reach 32 countries, yearning to explore and understand more cultures soon. Currently, Benjamin is an Air Transporation Management student at Arizona State University. He hopes to enter the airline industry to improve the passenger experience and loyalty programs while keeping up to how technology is being integrated into airports.

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