Arguably the most important air market in the United States is New York City. While Delta, American, and JetBlue duke it out at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and LaGuardia Airport (LGA), United Airlines has focused its New York strategy across the river in New Jersey at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). As the airline navigates out of the crisis, United will be ramping up Newark, with plans to cross 400 departures per day by November and commit to long-term, sustainable growth. Here’s what the airline has in store.
Newark is coming back strong
Despite returning after a five-year hiatus to JFK, United Airlines is heavily committed to its Newark hub. The airline is the largest carrier at the airport and uses it as a global gateway.
During the crisis, the airline had to cut back significantly at the airport. Transatlantic travel nearly came to a halt by mid-March after the enactment of travel bans. Shortly thereafter, New York City became the epicenter of the health crisis in the United States. Newark took a huge hit.
Now, United is planning on coming back. When the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) ‘use it or lose it’ slot waiver period ends, and its administration over Newark operations comes back to full scrutiny, United Airlines will resume its full schedule fo 430 daily flights out of the airport.
While Newark does not specifically have slots like JFK, EWR is still closely watched by the FAA. The FAA could bring back slots at Newark. Still, without it, the agency can sway the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), the airport’s operator, toward airlines that want to ramp up capacity at Newark, limiting United’s operations if it does not bring back its full suite of services. With the waivers in place, United can get by offering fewer flights and not losing its place at Newark.
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More mainline flying
As part of United’s commitment to the long-term, Newark is getting a significant upgrade. By the end of 2021, United Airlines hopes to get 100% of Newark departures on dual-class aircraft.
This means replacing 50-seater all-economy regional jets with larger planes or the airline’s premium CRJ550, which does seat 50 passengers but also includes a first class cabin. In addition, larger mainline aircraft like the Boeing 737 MAX will also replace some regional flying.
In 2019, about 55% of United’s departures out of Newark were on mainline aircraft. The remaining 45% constituted regional jets. By 2026, United wants to get to 70% of departures out of Newark on mainline jets.
This is good for customers. It means United will operate more capacity on aircraft that will have upgraded interiors with more amenities and offer a far more comfortable travel experience.
United Airlines has ordered 270 new narrowbody aircraft. Coupled with existing orders, United is sitting on over 500 aircraft expected for delivery. A chunk of that will go toward removing the airline’s 50-seaters, but some will also help expand the airline’s route network.
However, one of the interesting parts of United’s expansion includes widebodies. As Andrew Nocella, Chief Commercial Officer at United, stated at the airline’s United Next event, there is plenty of room for expansion:
“At United, we have our entire fleet of widebody jets at our disposal. But better than that, before the pandemic we had reached agreements, largely with Boeing, and we ordered about 30 aircraft. So if you compare the summer of 2022 versus the summer of 2019, we have 30 more widebody jets at our disposal, again, than we did in the pre-pandemic schedule.
“That’s going to really allow us to announce a bunch of new routes – we’re not going to do that today– but I promise there’s a bunch of great stuff coming in the very, very near future. And hopefully a lot of that’ll be right here from Newark.”
This would not be unprecedented, given United’s current presence out of Newark. As Mr. Nocella stated further,
“For example, United is the only US carrier flying from New York to Asia – Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. But we’re also the leading carrier from the United States to just about anywhere you can think: Australia, Japan, China, India, Israel, the list goes on and on. We are truly global.”
When the airline brings back its schedule, the carrier will return its full flying from Newark to international destinations like Hong Kong, Mumbai, and Tel Aviv. It also includes new routes launched recently, including from Newark to Johannesburg.
At the end of the day, Newark has a lot of promise for United, and United Airlines has a lot in store for Newark. Even with the rise of JetBlue at the airport and the potential for more flying from Spirit Airlines, United Airlines will be the leading carrier at the airport. While it will have to contend with growing competition at JFK, its massive connecting hub should help it weather the competition and continue to fly its robust schedule.
Where do you want United to fly from Newark to? Are you glad to see the airline commit to its hub? Let us know in the comments!