Skip to content

United Airlines could soon suspend service at New York's JFK Airport

Sept. 07, 2022
4 min read
plane flying
United Airlines could soon suspend service at New York's JFK Airport
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

United Airlines could soon be bidding farewell to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) — again.

At the end of October, the airline will lose the slots that currently allow it to operate from JFK — a key driver of the move. The Chicago-based carrier on Tuesday told employees that it still wants to grow at JFK but needs more slots to do it.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free biweekly Aviation newsletter.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

"If you recall, United had an opportunity during COVID to gain access to some temporary slot times at JFK held by other airlines," the unsigned note to employees said, which was obtained by TPG. "Now that customer demand has surged back, the operators of those slots are resuming their use at the start of the winter season and beyond."

A slot is a permission granted by the Federal Aviation Administration for an airline to use the airport's runway at a given time for a takeoff or a landing. JFK, along with a small handful of other airports, is slot-controlled.

United had long served Kennedy but left the airport in 2015 — a decision made by disgraced former United CEO Jeff Smisek. The airline then leased 40 slots that it owns at Kennedy to Delta Air Lines. A source familiar with the deal said that under the terms of the lease to Delta, United is unable to access those Kennedy slots. Slots are frequently leased and sold among airlines on a secondary market, and they are immensely valuable assets.

United re-inaugurated service at JFK in March 2021 during a period of depressed demand, especially among international carriers. The airline leased eight slots from some international airlines, enough for two round-trip flights a day to both Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

Now that demand is returning, the airlines that leased the slots to United need them back. In a sign that United has exhausted its existing options to obtain more slots, it said in the note that it is urging the FAA to increase the slot cap at Kennedy. United CEO Scott Kirby sent a letter to acting FAA administrator Billy Nolen last week urging a cap increase.

“JFK has four total runways (compared to just three at EWR) — two pairs of parallel runways — with the ability to consistently shift between two arrival or two departure runways to accommodate arrival or departure demand spikes,” the note to United employees said. “Yet, the airport capacity has remained the same: 81 operations per hour since 2008, just two more movements per hour than EWR’s stated limit of 79.”

More: United returns to New York JFK after more than a 5-year hiatus with inaugural flagship routes

United currently serves Kennedy using a 757-200 with 16 lie-flat business-class seats. It originally launched the service using 767s in the super-premium "high-J" configuration, with 46 business-class seats; it changed to the 757s last October.

Should United lose out on Kennedy, it will still have extensive transcontinental service at its nearby hub at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). From Newark, the carrier currently has seven daily round-trip flights to LAX and eight daily round-trip flights to SFO, according to Cirium schedule data.

United's move back to JFK was a symbolic way for the Star Alliance carrier to plant its flag back in New York City proper on a flagship route. It was also a chance to compete against Delta, American Airlines and JetBlue at the same airport. So, despite having a diminutive presence at the airport, losing its Kennedy slots would be a tough loss for United.

Featured image by PA Images via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases