United Airlines threatens to stop JFK service without more flights

United Airlines says it will cease flights to and from JFK next month if the federal government doesn’t allow the carrier to increase its operations at New York’s busiest airport, it has been reported.

The company delivered the message in a letter from United CEO Scott Kirby to acting Federal Aviation Administration chief Billy Nolen last week.

Kirby demanded that Nolen’s agency allow United to boost the number of departures and arrivals from Kennedy, according to an email cited by Reuters.

“If we are not able to get additional allocations for multiple seasons, we will need to suspend service at JFK, effective at the end of October,” Kirby wrote.

The FAA said on Tuesday that it “must consider airspace capacity and runway capacity to assess how changes would affect flights at nearby airports.”

The agency added that “any additional slots at JFK would follow the FAA’s well-established process of awarding them fairly and to increase competition.”

United has petitioned the FAA to award it more takeoff and landing authorizations at JFK “so that we can grow to be more competitive.”

United currently operates just two daily flights from JFK to both Los Angeles and San Francisco.
AFP via Getty Images

The Chicago-based carrier, which is the third largest domestic airline behind American and Delta, said that without more permanent slots, it cannot operate out of JFK “effectively compared to the larger schedules and more attractive flight times flown by our competitors,” including JetBlue and American.

United currently operates just two daily flights from JFK to both Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In 2015, the company pulled out of JFK and instead decided to concentrate on its local hub at Newark. When it left, it leased its 24 year-round slots to rival Delta.

In 2015, the airline stopped operating out of JFK in order to concentrate on its presence at Newark.
In 2015, the airline stopped operating out of JFK in order to concentrate on its presence at Newark.
Getty Images

Kirby, who became the airline’s top executive in 2017, has been quoted as saying the move was a mistake. Since joining the company from rival American, Kirby has been keen on re-establishing and expanding United’s footprint in southeastern Queens.

Last year, United returned to JFK — citing demand from West Coast customers who insisted on flying directly into New York City rather than New Jersey.

JFK is the 13th busiest airport in the country. It is also the largest terminus for international flights into and out of North America.

United sees room to grow at JFK, citing large-scale infrastructure projects including “the widening of runways, construction of multi-entrance taxiways, and the creation of aligned high-speed turnoffs.”

Newark is one of United’s largest hubs. The company operates 69% of its flights there, which translates into 425 flights per day.

In June, United cut the number of its daily departures by around 50 in order to mitigate congestion at Newark.

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