United suspending service at New York’s JFK
United Airlines is suspending service at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City as it continues negotiating with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to expand its schedule at the airport.
United told its employees about the change in a letter on Friday, saying the airline’s existing schedule of four flights per day did not allow it to remain competitive while portraying an optimistic outlook that changes will be made down the road. The suspension begins Oct. 30.
The airline argues infrastructure improvements over the past 14 years, including runway widening and new multientrance taxiways, allow the FAA to increase capacity limits at the airport, which could enable United to schedule additional flights there.
“Our discussions with FAA have been constructive,” the airline said in its letter. “It’s clear they are serious about operational improvements in the NY/NJ region, including JFK and EWR, which is important for all our customers. However, it’s also clear that process to add additional capacity at JFK will take some time.”
United said its 100 JFK-based employees will transition to other places, vowing to return to the airport if the negotiations bear fruit for the airline.
The airline had warned about the potential suspension in a Sept. 6 note to employees, saying it had been negotiating with the FAA for more than a year to grow its number of takeoff slots at JFK, which is located in Queens.
“If our latest request is approved and the FAA can offer United an interim multi-season allocation, we are prepared to expand and provide consumers a more competitive JFK offering,” United said at the time.
“But 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,” the company continued. “That would obviously be a tough and frustrating step to take and one that we have worked really hard to prevent.”
The FAA in a statement on Monday said it was committed to safely expanding airport capacity in New York.
“We will follow our fair and well-established process to award future slots to increase competition between airlines so passengers have more options,” the agency said. “We are encouraged United will retain and relocate its JFK staff to its other New York City airports.”
The Department of Justice and six states are suing American Airlines and JetBlue over their new partnership focused on the busy New York City and Boston air travel corridors, citing antitrust concerns. JFK serves as a hub airport for American and Delta Air Lines while also being JetBlue’s busiest airport.
United operates in the New York City corridor primarily out of its hub at Newark Liberty International Airport, which is located about 15 miles from midtown Manhattan.
But United has seen scheduling issues at Newark as well.
Over the summer, the airline eliminated 50 daily departures from the hub after it said more flights were scheduled than the airport could handle, citing air traffic control staffing challenges and ongoing construction.
The reduction was one of many instances of finger-pointing between airlines and federal regulators as passengers grappled with a high number of delays and cancellations over the summer, which sent consumer complaints soaring.
“The significance of JFK to our operation hasn’t changed – we think New York customers deserve more choices, and robust United service to JFK is good for our customers, our employees and our airline,” United said in its newest note to employees.
“As a result, we will continue our pursuit of a bigger and more desirable schedule for our customers and be ready to seize those opportunities if and when they surface,” the note continued.