United’s return to New York-JFK has been delayed a second time

Feb 11, 2021

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The pandemic has just delayed another new airline route — for the second time.

In November, United officially announced that after a five-year hiatus, it would return to New York’s busiest airport with new flights between JFK and both Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) beginning Feb. 1. That date later got pushed to Feb. 28 due to low demand.

And now, United is delaying its hotly anticipated service relaunch again, this time to March 28, roughly two months later than first planned.

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In a statement to TPG, the Chicago-based carrier said that:

Due to the continued impact of COVID-19 on our industry, we are delaying the start of our service between New York’s JFK Airport and our hubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles until March 28, 2021. Throughout the pandemic, United has been a leader in nimbly reshaping our schedule to match customer demand, and we look forward to offering this convenient service and a best-in-class product from New York City to the west coast.

The delayed schedule will be visible to flyers over the weekend when the carrier formally files an updated timetable.

United’s second postponement has led some to wonder how committed the carrier is to launching JFK flights during a pandemic that’s dealt a devastating blow to the industry. But United says it’s still a go, albeit with a trimmed schedule at first.

The original plan was for two daily flights on both the JFK-Los Angeles and JFK-San Francisco routes, but that’s been slashed to five-weekly frequencies on each leg.

“This has been a long time coming and we’re really excited to be part of the JFK story again,” United vice president of domestic network planning Ankit Gupta told media back in November.

United will fly the premium-heavy “high J” Boeing 767-300 on the route, which sports a whopping 46 Polaris seats instead of the standard 30, as well as 22 Premium Plus premium economy recliners, 43 extra-legroom Economy Plus seats and 56 coach seats.

More: United Airlines plans ‘aggressive’ return to New York-JFK

United will use Terminal 7 at JFK, which is shared with Alaska Airlines, British Airways and others. It remains to be seen if the carrier will arrange lounge access for its premium passengers.

United is planning to fly roughly 43% fewer flights in March 2021 compared to March 2019, according to Cirium schedules. This represents a three-point increase compared to February 2021, but is still down significantly from historic pre-pandemic highs.

Flyers looking to score a seat on the inaugural JFK flight to SFO can snag a seat for $99 in coach, $299 in Premium Plus and $540 in biz. Award seats are available for 8,000 miles in economy and climb to 50,000 miles in biz.

(Screenshot courtesy of United)

In January, the Department of Transportation approved the Northeast-focused alliance for two of United’s largest JFK competitors — American Airlines and JetBlue — which together operate a host of daily JFK to Los Angeles and San Francisco flights.

When touting the benefits of the new tie-up back in July, the two carriers promoted their combined premium transcon schedule as one of the most robust in the business. Plus, with JetBlue’s new Mint Suite and Studio products coming later this year, deep-pocketed flyers will have a host of top-notch transcon business-class options.

Photo courtesy of United Airlines

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