JFK Remains Top International Hub Despite COVID-19

New York JFK has long been the United States’ preeminent long-haul gateway, and the pandemic hasn’t changed that. JFK sees long-haul service to 66 airports this year across 46 countries. This includes the US, with Anchorage – almost as far as London – joining established Honolulu.

JFK Remains Top International Hub Despite COVID-19
New York JFK has nearly 50 long-haul passenger airlines this year. British Airways is the largest foreign airline, although Virgin Atlantic is only marginally behind. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

New York JFK ended 2019 with 29.3 million long-haul seats, with long-haul defined here as 3,000 miles or more. In second place was Los Angeles, with 21.3 million, OAG data shows.

These two airports – already by far the most important for long-haul – added the most seats since 2011 too. Funnily enough, they both added almost the same volume, for a combined 13.4 million. As is often the case, the dominant got more dominant.

JFK Remains Top International Hub Despite COVID-19
There have been several changes to the top-10 long-haul airports list, both good and bad. Simple Flying will look at this in another article. Source: OAG Schedules Analyzer

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Two long-haul domestic routes

JFK will have two long-haul domestic routes this year: Honolulu (4,983 miles) and Anchorage (3,386).

Anchorage, which is just 65 miles shorter than Heathrow, will be served twice-weekly by Delta from May to September using both B757-200s and B767-300ERs. It’ll have a block time of eight hours to Alaska’s largest city. In December 2020, Eastern Airlines announced and later put on sale a once-weekly JFK-Anchorage service using B777-200s, but it then pulled it.

While EVA Air and China Airlines both stopped in Anchorage en route between JFK and Taipei, ending in 2011 and 2015 respectively, cabotage meant they couldn’t carry fare-paying passengers. Therefore, Delta’s new Anchorage route is the first time in years that a non-stop and bookable service will be available.

JFK Remains Top International Hub Despite COVID-19
Delta is overwhelmingly JFK’s #1 long-haul airline. It has 22 routes, including Anchorage, Dakar, Sao Paulo, and Tel Aviv, and many across Europe. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

46 countries connected to JFK

Despite border restrictions at both ends, 46 countries are connected non-stop, led by:

  1. The UK
  2. Italy (which has overtaken France)
  3. France
  4. UAE
  5. Israel
  6. Netherlands
  7. South Korea
  8. Spain
  9. China
  10. Germany

JetBlue’s highly anticipated London service, for which it has recently posted the job of General Manager of Airport Operations in London, will further cement the UK’s lead. However, in the past day, the US has put the UK on its ‘avoid all travel’ list, with the big uncertainty that results in, especially given the approaching peak summer period.

JFK Remains Top International Hub Despite COVID-19
The UAE is JFK’s fourth-largest long-haul country by non-stop seats. This summer, Emirates has a twice-daily non-stop service to Dubai, along with a one-stop offering via Milan, and Etihad a once-daily to Abu Dhabi. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Western Europe by far the top

Western Europe has four times the number of non-stop seats as the number-two region, Northeast Asia, despite the end of Norwegian, which saw two million seats cut. Norse Atlantic, which aims to launch what were Norwegian’s stronger long-haul routes, will help claw back some lost ground, but there’s no certainty if or when this will happen.

The Middle East, partly used as a connecting point to South Asia and beyond, is JFK’s third-largest region. Simple Flying recently looked at Qatar Airways to North America, with JFK its thickest route. Doha, served twice-daily, is JFK’s 14th-thickest route this year.

JFK Remains Top International Hub Despite COVID-19
Prestige routes – those operated for pride or political reasons rather than for financial performance – still exist. These include Kenya Airways’ Nairobi-JFK service and Uzbekistan Airways to Tashkent. Booking data shows that Uzbekistan carried approximately 44,000 round-trip point-to-point passengers to Tashkent, while about 14,000 connected over Tashkent, mainly to Samarkand and Amritsar. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Top-10 long-haul routes

JFK’s long-haul network this year sees 66 airports served non-stop, together with a small number of one-stops, including Addis Ababa via Lome and Singapore via Frankfurt. Heathrow is still first, as shown below, although with over 1.6 million fewer seats than pre-crisis.

  1. Heathrow: 2.2 million two-way non-stop seats
  2. Paris CDG: 1.2 million
  3. Tel Aviv: 810,000
  4. Amsterdam: 767,000
  5. Seoul: 744,000
  6. Rome: 619,000
  7. Milan Malpensa: 601,000
  8. Dubai: 564,000 (715,000 when its service via Malpensa is included)
  9. Frankfurt: 503,000
  10. Istanbul: 490,000
JFK Remains Top International Hub Despite COVID-19
JFK-Tel Aviv non-stop capacity is above pre-crisis levels, helped by American Airlines launching the route and Delta expanding its presence. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Madrid, JFK’s third-largest destination in 2019, has fallen out of the top-10 list, likewise London Gatwick. Replacing them are Tel Aviv and Istanbul. Tel Aviv has jumped from 11th to third, helped by Israel’s vaccination progress, airline growth, and the fall of other markets. This summer, Tel Aviv-JFK will have up to seven daily flights with American, Delta, and El Al.

Will you be flying to/from JFK this year? Comment below!