United Airlines Will Return to JFK Airport in 2021

The carrier left JFK for Newark Liberty International Airport five years ago

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It's been a devastating year for airlines, but that's not stopping United from sticking to its grand expansion plans. Today the carrier announced its return to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2021, just over five years since it ended service there, citing a lack of profit. Instead, it focused on its services from New York's two other airports: Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, a United hub, and LaGuardia Airport in New York, which only offers short-haul routes.

“I have been waiting a long time to say this—United Airlines is back at JFK,” United’s chief executive officer Scott Kirby said in a statement. “Come early next year, we will be serving all three major New York City area airports with a best-in-class product to provide our customers unmatched transcontinental service from New York City and the west coast.”

Beginning February 2021, United will operate two daily flights to Los Angeles International Airport and two daily flights to San Francisco International Airport, plus their respective return legs, out of JFK's Terminal 7. It'll fly both routes on its reconfigured Boeing 767-300ER aircraft with three-class cabins that include lie-flat business seats as well as the airline's Premium Plus product.

“The upcoming return of United to JFK while continuing service at Newark Liberty and LaGuardia Airports will offer more choices for transcontinental flights just as travelers return to the skies,” Kevin O’Toole, Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said in a statement. “As the recovery begins, we’re pleased to see these increased options for those who choose to fly in and out of the Port Authority’s airports.”

These new routes are a game-changer for Star Alliance loyalists. Currently, United only flies nonstop to the West Coast from Newark—its flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco from LaGuardia require a layover due to the airport's restriction on flights to cities beyond a 1,500-mile radius, known as a perimeter rule. As such, travelers based in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island are more likely to fly on United's competitors Delta, American Airlines, and JetBlue, all of which fly nonstop transcontinental routes from JFK, which is much more conveniently located to them than Newark.

With United's return to JFK, we can expect airline competition to pick up a bit in the New York City area soon—which is great news for the beleaguered industry.