The Transcontinental Market Out Of JFK Is Heating Up

With United’s announcement that it is adding transcontinental routes out of New York-JFK today, the market is heating up. With multiple airlines flying multiple daily frequencies, United’s entrance will shuffle things up and add some new competition to an already premium-heavy route market. Here’s what to expect from each airline.

United Airlines Boeing 787-10
Pictured here is a United Airlines Boeing 787 at Newark, but from February 1st, the airline will be flying out of New York-JFK. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

While some airlines do fly nonstop transcontinental routes out of Newark, we will focus on operations to and from New York-JFK for the purpose of this article.

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Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines traditionally flies multiple daily flights from both San Francisco and Los Angeles to New York-JFK. This includes up to four daily flights out of San Francisco and five out of Los Angeles.

Alaska Airlines, Capacity, Flights Cut
Alaska Airlines flies Boeing 737s on transcontinental routes. Photo: Getty Images

Alaska Airline is the only carrier flying transcontinental routes without lie-flat seating in the premium cabin. Passengers can find the airline’s domestic first class recliner-style hard product onboard. However, passengers flying in first class receive access to the Alaska Lounge.

Alaska Airlines first class
Alaska Airlines has recliner-style seats in its premium cabin. Photo: Alaska Airlines

This is one reason why the airline is often one of the lowest-priced on the route in the premium cabin. In coach, it can vary as Alaska’s product is pretty on par with other airlines.

American Airlines

American Airlines flies up to ten daily operations between Los Angeles and New York and five between San Francisco and New York. Both of these routes are operated using narrowbody aircraft.

American A321
American Airlines flies Airbus A321s on transcontinental routes. Photo: Airbus

Traditionally, American Airlines flies an Airbus A321T on the route. This is a three-class aircraft with 102 seats onboard with 10 in Flagship First, 20 in Flagship Business, 36 in extra-legroom economy, and only 36 in standard economy.

American Airlines is the only carrier with a separate business and first class product on the route. Flagship First comes with perks on the ground, such as Flagship First Dining and reverse-herringbone-style lie-flat seats in a 1-1 configuration.

American Flagship First
American Airlines’ Flagship First is a reverse-herringbone seat on a narrowbody. Photo: American Airlines

Flagship Business is a more standard lie-flat business class configuration on a narrowbody. This is in a 2-2 configuration. This class, however, does not come with access to more exclusive perks, but passengers can access Flagship or Admirals Club lounges on the ground.

Delta Air Lines

Delta has a pretty extensive transcontinental market. This includes up to seven daily roundtrip flights between New York and San Francisco and nine roundtrips between Los Angeles and New York-JFK.

Delta Boeing 767-300ER
Delta Air Lines flies Boeing 767s on the route. Photo: Getty Images

Delta flies different aircraft on each route, making it the only airline to fly different products on these two transcontinental routes. Traditionally, Los Angeles flights are conducted onboard Boeing 767-300ER aircraft with forward-facing, staggered Delta One lie-flat business class.

On routes to San Francisco, Delta flies Boeing 757 aircraft. These are premium-configured 757s with lie-flat seating in the Delta One cabin. This includes 16 Delta One seats in a 2-2 configuration, followed by 44 extra-legroom coach seats and 108 standard economy seats.

Delta One Cabin
The Delta One cabin on a Boeing 767. Photo: Jay Singh – Simple Flying

Delta One passengers can access the Delta Sky Clubs at both Los Angeles and New York-JFK. In addition, on the ground in Los Angeles, there is also an exclusive Delta One check-in location at Los Angeles.


JetBlue was one of the first airlines to put a door in business class, and you can find it on JetBlue’s transcontinental routes. The airline operates up to ten daily roundtrips between Los Angeles and New York and up to six between San Francisco and New York.

JetBlue Getty
JetBlue reserves its most premium planes for these transcontinental routes. Photo: Getty Images

JetBlue flies narrowbody Airbus A320 family aircraft on these routes. However, unlike other narrowbody business class configurations on this route, JetBlue offers some throne seats in a staggered configuration. The first row is a 2-2 configuration, followed by a 1-1 configuration, then another 2-2, and then on, thus creating the solo seats with a full door. Note that the pairs of two seats do not have doors.

JetBlue Mint
JetBlue has a few solo Mint seats, which are the superior seats on the plane. Photo: JetBlue

The one thing lacking from JetBlue’s product, however, is the ground game. JetBlue does not have its own lounges, so unless you have access to another lounge on the ground, you’re out of luck.

United Airlines

New to the market starting on February 1st is United Airlines. With two daily roundtrip flights to both San Francisco and Los Angeles, the airline is dangling its feet in the waters before increasing frequencies– which the airline is hoping to do.

United Airlines Boeing 767-300ER
United Airlines is officially coming back to New York-JFK. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

The aircraft United Airlines is using on this route are premium Boeing 767 aircraft. This includes 46 Polaris business class seats, 22 Premium Plus (premium economy) seats, 47 extra-legroom Economy Plus seats, and 52 standard economy seats.

United Airlines is the only airline on this route that is offering a true premium economy product. The others offer extra-legroom options, but United’s 767-300ERs are the only ones that have a dedicated premium economy product.

United Polaris
These aircraft have 46 lie-flat business class seats onboard, which a testament to the very premium pool of travelers flying coast-to-coast. Photo: United Airlines

One area that United is lacking in is something JetBlue also lacks, lounge access– though on one end. Only in New York-JFK will there be no lounge access for United’s premium passengers. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, United does operate lounges for premium passengers.

Premium Plus
Premium Plus is the only true premium economy product on transcontinental routes out of JFK. Photo: United Airlines

Why are these routes so competitive?

New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are some of the largest business centers in the United States, and these airlines help connect business travelers heading coast to coast.

Right now, a lot of these operations are adjusted. Some carriers have severely pulled back their premium offerings out of Los Angeles, while others have altered the aircraft they use. For example, American Airlines is running Boeing 777s instead of Airbus A321Ts on the route currently and will be running those jets on this route for the foreseeable future.

However, by the time United Airlines does jump in on the route, it is likely that most carriers will be back to flying at least some of these operations. Delta and JetBlue are two airlines that have maintained some of their same products on the route for now.

Which is your favorite airline to fly on these transcontinental routes? Let us know in the comments!