United eyes return to JFK in early 2021 after greater than 5-year absence, because of pandemic lull


A United Airlines Boeing 737-800 and United Airlines A320 Airbus on seen approach to San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco.

Louis Nastro | Reuters

United Airlines is planning to resume service at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2021,  possibly early in the year, according to people familiar with the matter.

The early plans are a bet that the pandemic’s lull in air travel could help United end its five-year absence from what is normally one of the country’s most congested airports. Service could start early next year but a firm timeline or decision hasn’t been finalized. It isn’t yet clear whether officials will grant United space at the tightly controlled airport.

United serves the New York-area from its hub at Newark Liberty International Airport, where it dominates flights, and out of New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Scott Kirby, who became CEO in May, in 2017 said leaving JFK in 2015 was a mistake and has since expressed interest in returning to the airport, which is has been a key airport for carriers like Delta Air Lines and American Airlines and their international partners.

United’s potential return to JFK isn’t the first strategy shift to emerge during the pandemic. In a surprise move in July, American announced a partnership with New York-based JetBlue Airways that would let the two carriers sell seats on each other’s flights. It would give Fort Worth-based American more access to New York and Boston.

United declined to comment. 


Steven Gregory