United Airlines To Pull Out Of JFK, Cites Too Few Slots

Credit: EQRoy / Alamy Stock Photo

United Airlines will “temporarily” suspend service to New York Kennedy (JFK) from Oct. 29, saying it needs additional slots to be competitive at the busy airport.

The move, which United told employees in a memo was a “difficult decision,” follows through on a threat made by the airline in early September. However, United had previously said it would permanently exit JFK if the US FAA did not grant it additional slot pairs, but now indicates some progress has been made in talks with the agency.

Discussions with the FAA have been “constructive,” United said in the Sept. 30 memo, adding that the process to gain more JFK slots “will take time,” necessitating the pull out. But the Star Alliance member said it “will continue our pursuit of a bigger and more desirable schedule” at JFK.

United’s JFK service consists of just four daily flights: two transcontinental routes per day to both Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO). The carrier has a hub at Newark (EWR), where most of the airline's New York flying is based.

United said it wants to grow its presence at JFK, but has so far not gained the slots to do so. CEO Scott Kirby said in early September that United had made “repeated requests” to the FAA for more JFK slots.

“Given our current too-small-to-be-competitive schedule out of JFK—coupled with the start of the winter season where more airlines will operate their slots as they resume JFK flying—United Airlines has made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend service to JFK,” United said in the Sept. 30 memo.

The airline emphasized it still wants to grow its presence at JFK, explaining that “robust service to JFK is good for our customers, our employees and our airline.”

JFK, which has two pairs of parallel runways, has had a cap at 81 runway movements per hour since 2008.

The FAA has said it is following an established process for reviewing slot requests at capacity-capped airports.

Aaron Karp

Aaron Karp is a Contributing Editor to the Aviation Week Network.