United Airlines returns to JFK as Covid-19 lull ends 5-year absence

A United Airlines Boeing 737-800 and a United Airlines A320 Airbus approaching San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco.

Louis Ribbon | Reuters

United Airlines flew back to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport for the first time in more than five years on Sunday when the airline took advantage of a break in air traffic to secure space at the once-congested airport.

United’s JFK service departed with a PT flight at 7:30 a.m. from Los Angeles International Airport and a PT flight at 9:30 a.m. from the hub of San Francisco International Airport. Both were operated with a Boeing 767-300.

The flight from JFK to San Francisco departed around 5:30 p.m. ET and the flight to Los Angeles departed shortly after 7:00 p.m. ET. Both westbound flights were full and about 85% of the 167 seats were occupied on the eastbound flights, a spokesman said.

The airline will operate five weekly flights from JFK to Los Angeles and five weekly flights to San Francisco, doubling in May.

Sandra Vazquez, who took the JFK-San Francisco flight after visiting her son on Long Island, said she thought it was “a mistake” on her ticket when she saw JFK on her reservation and remembered it was hers Husband said to “make sure it is” right. “

United’s service in the New York area has been focused on the Newark Liberty International Airport hub and New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Airlines withdrew air traffic to the northeast during the Covid-19 pandemic, with business and international travel still at poor levels, despite domestic leisure demand increasing nationally.

According to Airlines for America, an industry group that represents most of the major US airlines, scheduled airline traffic in New York state fell 56% in April compared to the same month last year, 2019, more than any other state. The national average is 32%. This makes it easier for airlines to add services.

Scott Kirby, United’s CEO, who took over the helm last May, said leaving JFK in October 2015 was a mistake and expressed a desire to return to New York City Airport amid the move of transcontinental flights to Newark it enabled competitor American Airlines to win customers a lucrative company.

“We want to expand [JFK service] also to other hubs, “Ankit Gupta, vice president of network and flight planning for the airline, told CNBC, citing Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Chicago O’Hare as options.

CNBC first reported in September that United plans to return to JFK.

Other airlines take advantage of the low air traffic to reach airports that were previously harder to reach due to traffic congestion. Southwest Airlines, for example, added new flights from United’s O’Hare and Houston Intercontinental hubs last year.

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