United Airlines delays hotly anticipated return to New York-JFK

Jan 14, 2021

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The pandemic has just delayed another new airline route.

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.

Well, you’ll need to wait nearly another month to catch a United plane at JFK. On Wednesday, the carrier shared plans that it would push back its hotly anticipated service relaunch to Feb. 28.

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

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

For now, a four-week delay shouldn’t represent much of an inconvenience to flyers. The carrier has plenty of premium transcontinental flights from its hub in Newark. Plus, with the pandemic raging and Californians asked to stay within 120 miles of home, the demand for new daily cross-country hops just isn’t there.

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

Despite the delay, the carrier is still committed to making the JFK flights work. The original plan was for two daily flights on both the JFK-Los Angeles and JFK-San Francisco routes, but now United is planning for a total of five-weekly JFK flights.

United will use 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 49% fewer flights in February 2021 compared to February 2019, according to Cirium schedules and confirmed by the carrier. This represents a two-point increase compared to January 2021, but is still down significantly from historic pre-pandemic highs.

On Tuesday, 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.

“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.

Photo courtesy of United Airlines

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