United Airlines has set back its highly anticipated return to New York JFK Airport until late March due to the impact of COVID-19. The airline was scheduled to return by the end of February before the date was pushed back another month.
United will relaunch JFK flights on March 28th
Back in November, United announced it would return to JFK Airport after a five-year absence, setting a launch date of February 1st. The airline would fly to JFK out of its hubs in Los Angeles and San Francisco and earmarked its “high-J” Boeing 767-300ER jets for the job. These planes are configured with 46 Polaris seats (up from the standard 30), 22 Premium Plus reclining seats, 43 Economy Plus seats, and 56 economy seats.
Due to a lack of demand, United pushed back its initial February 1st date to February 28th. Additionally, initial schedules planned for two flights per day on both Los Angeles and San Francisco routes, but this was cut to five flights a week. United has now delayed its return again until March 28th, citing the ongoing impact of the pandemic. In a statement to TPG, United said,
“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.”
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Flights will continue from Newark
United already operates premium transcontinental NY-Los Angeles and NY-San Francisco flights out of Newark Airport. These flights will continue in addition to United’s new JFK routes, although the airline is operating less than half of its usual capacity in the current climate. United hoped to increase the number of daily JFK flights from two to four, but ended up cutting the schedule to five flights a week.
The carrier exited JFK Airport in 2015 after a long stint of serving the airport since the 1950s. United left JFK after consolidating its Newark hub and basing its transcontinental services there. With some questioning how United was able to acquire such sought-after slots at JFK, chief communications officer Josh Earnest claims extra runway space and lack of foreign carriers cleared the way.
United is coming off record losses for 2020
With carriers left, right and center reporting record-breaking losses for 2020, United’s full-year financial results were bound to be disappointing. The carrier lost over $7bn through 2020, compared to a net income of $3bn for 2019. However, it was able to raise around $26bn in liquidity and made many shrewd cuts to its operation to help trim costs.
Despite the losses, United added many new routes to its schedule across 2020, including its return to JFK. In more recent news, United has reintroduced its Boeing 737 MAX fleet into service and plans to operate around 500 MAX flights in February. This will then go up to approximately 2,000 flights by March.
How excited are you for United’s return to JFK Airport? Will it be worth the wait? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.