United Pulling Out Of JFK, Moving P.S. Flights To Newark

United has just announced a radical change to their p.s. transcontinental service, which is their premium product between New York’s JFK Airport and Los Angeles/San Francisco.

United-PS

As of October 25, 2015:

  • United will move their p.s. flights from New York’s Kennedy Airport to Newark Airport
  • With this, United will completely withdraw operations from JFK Airport
  • Furthermore, all flights between Newark and Los Angeles/San Francisco will be operated by p.s. configured 757-200s

United-PS-1

This move makes a lot of sense, as radical as pulling out of JFK Airport is. By making this move:

  • United will be offering even more frequencies, up to 15x daily between Newark and Los Angeles, and up to 17x daily between Newark and San Francisco
  • In order to operate exclusively 757-200s between Newark and Los Angeles/San Francisco, United will be reconfiguring some transatlantic 757-200s for p.s. service, and will instead replace those transatlantic routes with 767s
  • Ultimately United will be significantly improving the experience for passengers who normally fly out of Newark to the west coast, since all of these flights will be getting flat beds
  • United offers better ground services and connectivity at Newark, given that it’s their hub

United really had no reason left to operate the p.s. flights out of JFK, perhaps other than that JFK is considered “New York’s airport,” while many associate Newark with not being as convenient.

Given that United has very little connecting traffic at JFK which couldn’t be served elsewhere, this seems like it’s ultimately more convenient for passengers. If you’re leaving from Manhattan using public transportation, traveling to Newark Airport isn’t significantly more unpleasant than getting to Kennedy Airport.

And if you’re taking Uber, then the flat rates are similar to Kennedy and Newark.

I suspect this has partly been caused by transcon fares out of Kennedy being driven down substantially, due to JetBlue’s introduction of Mint Class, which has put pressure on the legacies. Meanwhile out of Newark, United has a fortress hub, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them raise transcon fares.

What’s also interesting here is what will happen to United’s presence at Terminal 7 at Kennedy Airport, which is primarily occupied by British Airways and United. Per the press release:

With its launch of p.s. services at Newark Liberty, United will cease operations at Kennedy International Airport on Oct. 25. United has entered into two separate transactions:  Delta Air Lines plans to acquire United’s JFK slots, and United plans to acquire slots from Delta in Newark. Each transaction is subject to regulatory approval.

So Delta will pick up United’s slots at JFK, though I’ll be curious to see what happens with the gates. I could potentially see Terminal 7 being transformed into a full on oneworld terminal, given the limited gate space American has at Terminal 8. British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Iberia, Qantas, etc., already operate their flights out of there, so maybe we’ll see even more oneworld carriers over there, including Qatar Airways (given their gate dispute with American at Terminal 8).

Bottom line

This is an extremely logical move on the part of United. They seemed to operate the p.s. routes from JFK out of legacy, though given their situation, operating them out of Newark makes a lot more sense. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see transcon fares on them increase substantially as well, which is probably another motivation for the move.

What do you make of United switching p.s. flights from Kennedy to Newark?

Comments

  1. I was wondering why my SFO-EWR leg was changed to a 757-200 a few weeks ago. I was very pleased to see lie-flat seats! Now I know why.

  2. Kinda sucks if you need to connect to a *A international flight. But UA/UX is so horrible now I pretty much refuse to fly them anyway.

  3. Makes sense…Although jut a bit concerned that now that upgrade (R space) and saver business class space will be significantly reduced? Usually the flights out of JFK had limited R space and saver business class availability in advance, you could always rely on getting space out of EWR (albeit not a flat bed). I wonder what space will look like going forward.

  4. Can’t really comment cuz I live in Canada but seems to be the right move(I live in Vancouver and I planned to book a ticket from YVR-SFO-JFK on UA and JFK-MAD on IB and it seems that I need to withdraw baggages before I can do that. If UA goes to EWR exclusively I can just take EWR-MAD on UA and there wouldn’t be hassle for baggages

  5. A bit OT but I wonder what happens to all that space left by UA at JFK T7. Maybe that frees up gate space and what happens to the lounge? Since I don’t see any details with whats to be done with terminal 7 in regards to if BA plans to move in AA’s terminal, maybe CX can use that space left by UA as its own lounge? Doubt it but still would be nice.

  6. Meh. It makes sense for United, but if you want to make a connection to one of their Star Alliance partners it makes it more restrictive. EVA, Singapore Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Turkish Airlines all fly only from JFK. But given United’s delusional self serving business model they just would prefer it if people would only fly them. My Hubby is a premier 1K flyer on United, we’re old Continental people. Newark is near impossible to get to during rush hour because of the tunnel traffic. The Air/Train connection is a joke and it is more expensive than getting to JFK because of the tolls. Newark is a good airport and I hear now United is flying non-stop to Goose bay 😉 At the end of the day as much as I hate United we keep flying them, the people on the 1K desk are great, the Continental biz seats are hardly industry leading, but they are comfortable and they fly direct to more places we want to go than any other airline (out of EWR). As our discontentment grows I wonder is it possible to approach American and say: hey 1k on UA wanna take me on? Would they allow for such a switch or do you just need to start all over again?

  7. How will this affect Long Island customers? Will they go for JetBlue instead? Or, will the JFK winner be Delta?

    Any thoughts on Virgin America being the only one to maintain flights from both Newark and JFK?

  8. Sounds like a less than stellar deal for the flying public. Delta gets more landing slots where it’s already strong, and United gets more slots where it already has an enormous advantage. To put it mildly, this doesn’t foster competition.

  9. @Raksiam, most european star alliance carriers fly out of EWR. However, none of the asian star alliance carriers fly to EWR which I find puzzling.
    I think this is a great move for UA given most people who live in Staten Island and New Jersey prefer to fly out of EWR versus going through NYC to get to JFK.

  10. Since both originate from Penn Station, do people prefer taking NJTransit to Newark AirTrain, or, LIRR to JFK AirTrain? Any comparisons would be appreciated.

  11. I always presumed UA offered these flights for Star Alliance connections, but did not understand why they didn’t offer PS at EWR. This move makes sense, as I believe AA has pulled their EWR flights from LAX a while ago.

    I have also wondered why ANA and JAL haven’t swapped locations at JFK. Given that ANA is the only Star Alliance Carrier out of T7 and JAL is the only Oneworld carrier out of T1. It seems that they are comfortable staying put, as JAL is renovating its lounge in T1 (which was badly needed).

  12. I think an interesting thing about this is that it will mean United will no longer have complimentary Premier upgrade space from SFO/LAX to any airport in the New York Area (direct) since all of the flights will be P.S. flights. Otherwise everything about this makes logistical and business sense but is a bit of a letdown for those of traveling from SFO/LAX to locations east of the East River.

  13. @EthaninSF

    JAL is part owner of T1 along with Korean Air, Lufthansa and Air France and I don’t see JAL giving up ownership.

  14. Lucky’s Reader

    I live in Lower Manhattan… When I am not taking a cab / car, I prefer taking LIRR to JFK – not through Penn Station, but rather through Atlantic Station in Brooklyn (which is much easier to get to and a nicer station to boot). Penn Station can be a huge hassle, especially during peak time periods. Generally Newark is harder to get to – you have NJ Transit, PATH Train to Newark and two tunnels as your only option. JFK has several ways to get their ranging from bridges, tunnels, subways, LIRR, etc.

  15. Christian says: “Sounds like a less than stellar deal for the flying public. Delta gets more landing slots where it’s already strong, and United gets more slots where it already has an enormous advantage. To put it mildly, this doesn’t foster competition.”

    Lucky rarely bothers to second guess endless consolidation and reduced competition other than to say “it makes sense, is largely inevitable, and probably won’t change anything.” Lucky has a very unique situation that seems to blind him to the concerns and complications of most travelers.

  16. This is good and bad I guess. Sucks if you were flying to JFK to get to LI or Westchester. Sucks for domestic upgrades as presumably they will keep the PS upgrade restrictions, including the large co-pays even for elites (oh why can’t they have just stuck with e500s?). For international connections it is a big win as you get the extra comfort for the transcon leg.

  17. @Lucky’s Reader

    The biggest difference is that there are a lot more LIRR frequencies to Jamaica Station (where you board the JFK AirTrain) than NJ Transit frequencies to the Newark Airport Station as Jamaica is sort of the central hub of the LIRR network. The LIRR trains are slightly nicer and additionally if you are coming/going to Brooklyn or lower Manhattan, you can take the LIRR from JFK to Atlantic Terminal in Downtown Brooklyn and avoid the nightmare that is Penn Station. Otherwise the journeys take about the same time.

    I also find having the subway as an option to JFK is nice because its significantly cheaper than taking the LIRR or NJ Transit (if also resulting in a longer and less pleasant journey).

  18. I’m actually more concerned about Delta’s lost EWR slots. I often fly INTO EWR on Delta as I find it easier to get INTO Manhattan from EWR than I find it getting to EWR from Manhattan.

  19. “If you’re leaving from Manhattan using public transportation, traveling to Newark is significantly more pleasant than taking the subway and AirTrain to Kennedy Airport.”

    Not sure which Manhattan you are going to, but EWR is in no way more convenient than JFK on public trans. Unless you live in Penn Station, for EWR you are looking at a minimum of Subway->NJ Transit->Air Train, which is similar to JFK (Subway->LIRR->Air Train), except that for JFK you also often have the option of just taking the Subway->Air Train (which may be more convenient for some given the fewer transfers).

  20. Lucky, I think you are wrong about Newark being more convenient to Manhattan. To Newark the only option is NJ Transit from Penn Station, which is expensive ($15) and runs infrequently (typically only 2-3 times an hour on the weekend — and scheduled so that 2 of the trains are usually within 10 minutes of each other, so if you arrive at the wrong time waits of more than 30 minutes for the next train are very common).

    From Manhattan to JFK you can take either the subway, which is cheaper than the Newark connection, or the LIRR from Penn Station to Jamaica, which is fast, priced similarly to the NJ Transit, and runs very frequently since Jamaica is a hub for all but one LIRR line, so even on the weekend trains are usually no more than ~10 minutes apart.

  21. “If you’re leaving from Manhattan using public transportation, traveling to Newark is significantly more pleasant than taking the subway and AirTrain to Kennedy Airport.”

    Ben, have to disagree here. The NJTransit/Amtrak tunnel under the Hudson is unreliable, at best. From Manhattan you have both LIRR and the E train (express through Queens except for midnight-6:00am). As others have pointed out, you can use Atlantic Avenue from Brooklyn.

    Though, as a San Francisco resident with family in Manhattan, I’m pretty biased…

  22. And as for T7, I would not be suprised if this hastens its demise. BA has been thinking about moving into an expanded T8 for a while now (T8 was supposed to be twice as big as it is, but they scrapped the second half during a budget cut at some point). T7 is a cramped, uncomfortable mess.

    And while JFK will never win any “best airport in the world” awards, with T1, T4, T5 and T8 all being fairly modern, and T2 likely on its way out soon, that just leaves T7 to be eliminated before JFK is actually a reasonably comfortable place to fly from.

  23. Does US need space closer to AA at JFK? If so, they could take those spots in T7 and at least be closer to AA.

  24. “If you’re leaving from Manhattan using public transportation, traveling to Newark is significantly more pleasant than taking the subway and AirTrain to Kennedy Airport.”

    Ben – WTF are you smoking?

  25. As others have pointed out, you are wrong about the airports. JFK is much more convenient to get both by public transportation and taxi/uber. Unless you are invested in their frequent flier program, live in NJ (in which case you flew out of EWR anyway), or need some kind of international connection, United will loose point to point passengers to Delta and Jetblue.

    I never book a EWR flight unless it’s significantly cheaper – which it rarely is.

  26. Good riddance I cant wait till they go out of business
    Horrible customer service awful CEO/ greedy program
    United is a second to last choice of every airline in the country when I fly
    Its a crying shame the lost opportunity of this once high quality airline
    May the former Continental & United RIP the new United is frightening in almost every thing they do
    So Sad. I feel sorry for those that like to use JFK and actually want or wanted to be United customers especially from the Long island area. Thankfully I have no interest
    Maybe closing JFK will give United’s management more time to complain about the Middle East carriers

  27. I remember that shared United British Airways terminal from a long time ago. It looked like a big modern trapezoid/rectangle. And I remember taking shuttle buses between terminals before AirTrain existed and even spotted Concorde in the air a few times while on the shuttle bus.

    Lucky, did you ever fly Concorde when you were little with your parents?

    @Anthony, thank you for pointing out the possibilities from Atlantic Terminal. I didn’t realize there are also reasonable LIRR frequencies from Brooklyn. I guess this is also conducive to anyone on subways that stop at Atlantic Avenue as well.

  28. This is insane. No one wants to go to Newark. These flights would have to be hundreds of dollars cheaper than any other airline for me to even consider them.

  29. Agreed with the LIRR frequency to Jamaica. It is a true hub with so much service. It’s about 15 min from Penn Station to Jamaica Station/LIRR. The E subway to Sutphin Blvd is also a great option to get to AirTrain JFK. I am biased being a Queens Resident and infrequent flyer. #avgeek

  30. “Qatar Airways (given their gate dispute with American at Terminal 8)”

    Could you explain?

  31. I think this is awesome. The upgraded equipment SFO-EWR may even motivate me to earn 1K another year, if they sell connecting flights at reasonable prices or if I can SDC to them frequently!

  32. “If you’re leaving from Manhattan using public transportation, traveling to Newark is significantly more pleasant than taking the subway and AirTrain to Kennedy Airport.”

    sorry but gotta add to the pile! this is wrong. NJT is less reliable than LIRR and the newark AirTrain is terrible.

    honestly, I get what UA is doing logistically here but pulling out of JFK completely is insane to me.

  33. Makes sense. The 757s used for transatlantic flights have fewer business seats than the PS 757s. I’m curious if they will keep or change those. Also, 17x daily flights between SFO and EWR is a lot.

    @Nick – I did a status challenge with AA for Platinum. I had to get 10,000 EQPs in 90 days.

  34. @ Nai — See here:
    http://dohanews.co/qatar-airways-ceo-threatens-to-leave-oneworld-alliance-over-subsidy-row/

    “He told the newspaper that American Airlines was withholding information on its bookings system that was hindering the proper transfer of passengers. He also accused the US carrier of blocking its new A350 from accessing the terminals at JFK airport in New York.

    An American Airlines spokesperson told the WSJ that the constraints on allocating new gate space at JFK was unrelated to the trade dispute.”

  35. @ Dax — Not sure your point. It makes sense from the perspective of the *airlines*… because it will make them more profitable. I said it will likely drive fares up. What am I supposed to say — “damn them for trying to maximize their profits?”

  36. I’m an idiot, you guys are right about Kennedy vs. Newark, of course. Shows how little I fly to/from NY, and when I do, it’s almost always either connecting or into/out of LaGuardia.

  37. “Ultimately United will be significantly improving the experience for passengers who normally fly out of Newark to the west coast, since all of these flights will be getting flat beds”

    IF you’re flying in F. That’s a big if.

  38. Lucky, I think the point is that within NYC, it’s hard to make a blanket statement on travel time / ease when it comes to EWR / JFK. It varies by individual, by time of day, by method of travel, etc. This move may be a negative for a large number of United fliers depending on their situation, and that should be reflected in your post. IMO it is best for customers when they have options at all three airlines (one reason I like Delta’s approach to this market). I often fly out of one airport and into another depending on schedule. EWR leaving JFK just eliminates an option for customers.

  39. Obviously in my last post I meant to say it is better for customers to have options at all three “airports” and that “UA” leaving JFK eliminates an option for customers…

  40. “If you’re leaving from Manhattan using public transportation, traveling to Newark Airport isn’t significantly more unpleasant than getting to Kennedy Airport.”

    There’s a reason I constantly choose JFK and even LGA over EWR. EWR’s NJ transit to Airtrain is TERRIBLE! It always breaks at the worst possible time and late night service drives me insane. JFK (with LIRR + AIrtrain) is much more palatable IMO.

  41. United as a direct flight to SNA (Orange County) from EWR which is a much more affluent area. I’m curious if they will offer p.s. service on that flight as well. Lots of celebrities and the wealthy take flights out of SNA instead of LAX.

  42. Getting to EWR will be easier and cheaper (faster?) if/when PATH from WTC is extended to EWR from Newark Penn. But given the scandal between UA and PANYNJ it is unlikely to happen in the next decade I guess.

    Another often overlooked option to get to EWR form Manhattan is taking the PATH to Newport/Hobbken/Exchange Place and Uber to EWR. You escape tunnel traffic with PATH. Once in NJ it will be a $20 Uber ride to EWR.

  43. that’s cute, lucky!

    “I’m an idiot, you guys are right about Kennedy vs. Newark, of course. Shows how little I fly to/from NY, and when I do, it’s almost always either connecting or into/out of LaGuardia.”

  44. Lots of people prefer Newark than JFK either because their company is in New Jersey or they live in New Jersey. Many big companies, especially those Wall Street companies have huge operation in Jersey City. Many people love living in Jersey City because it is more peaceful. Living cost is lower, and you don’t have to NYC city tax even you work in NYC.
    So no doubt, it is a smart move for United.

  45. I think big picture it makes a lot of sense. Sure as people have pointed out, they may lose some NYC transcon passengers that would only pick JFK (I agree it’s more convenient), but as Noa points out, there’s plenty of business to be had for EWR especially if Delta is less or no longer in the picture. Also, that discounts the cost of operating a small number of flights out of JFK. There are certainly economies of scale in airport operations and I can totally see this being a good move if the incremental profits from more flights at Newark outweigh the profits from a few PS flights out of JFK (similar price point but higher operating costs).

    As for star alliance connections, there are star alliance flights out of Newark and for all non-NYC passengers (of which there are plenty on international flights), of course United would rather have you stay on United metal rather than transit through JFK from United to a star alliance partner. I could care less if I’m transferring through Newark or JFK not living in NYC so from a macro perspective it makes more sense than many here seem to want to admit. Honestly if I lived in NYC I’d most likely go Delta of all the options.

  46. Works for me, as I recently started flying to EWR to stay at the Hyatt Jersey City. But when I leave NY it’s always JFK only. Nothing beats the LIRR/Air Train combo.

  47. I also think this is the beginning of the end for CPUs on long haul routes. They can phase in other long haul domestic routes under the PS brand and eventually phase out CPUs.

    I don’t mind that concept though as I think CPUs don’t work on a lot of routes anyway.

  48. Do we think UA is ceding some important territory here? JFK-LAX (and, to an extent, JFK-SFO) have been “flagship routes” for all three legacy carriers in addition to JetBlue and Virgin America, so by pulling out, UA is essentially saying they either no longer view LAX/SFO-JFK as a flagship route, or they no longer feel it’s worth competing on that route. You can market EWR however you like, but at the end of the day it’s still not “New York’s international airport.”

    Also, can anyone else think of a major U.S. airport where a legacy carrier has simply given up all its slots? I mean, even in DFW, ATL, SFO and DTW (and everywhere else, I’d think) the non-fortress hub airlines still serve their respective hub cities.

    In theory, since SFO and LAX are UA hubs (and especially so in SFO’s case), the service to JFK was really service from their key hubs to key markets, not service to another hub.

  49. This actually gives room to solve the T7 conundrum. The terminal can either be rebuilt in phases, or half torn down to make room for the T8 expansion, and when that is complete everything moves over.

  50. Today’s schedule
    SFO – EWR: 15 flights
    SFO – JFK: 7 flights
    JFK – SFO: 7 flights
    EWR – SFO: 15 flights

    So based on today’s random sample, that’s a loss of 5 flights in each direction. Plus a move to smaller capacity equipment. That’s a pretty big reduction of E/E+ seats.

  51. “United offers better ground services and connectivity at Newark, given that it’s their hub”

    No. I agree wholeheartedly with the rest of your analysis, but this is incorrect. Ground services at EWR are pretty terrible. The two (technically three) United clubs are mad houses all day long, and security lines can be horrendous.

    JFK isn’t fancy, mind you, but for high yield travelers there’s a Global First lounge that serves real food; for club members a low-key, but relatively quiet United Club, and for everybody a more decent security experience (although YMMV, of course.)

    United doesn’t have showers at JFK, but then again all flights are/were domestic.

    Overall I agree that the move is a net positive for many, and that if anything it makes sense, but the ground services at EWR are pitiful, save for the Global Services lobby.

  52. This is actually VERY good for those of us flying BF from SFO to Europe or Middle East.
    It sucks to pay for BF and fly domestic first for almost half (a third) of the flight.
    I wonder if SFO-EWR-Europe/TLV will cost more because it includes BF on the first segment.
    That would not be good.

    On the other hand, now I can take some of my business to Jetblue Mint for the SFO-JFK (when I need to be in LI). I always felt guilty not getting the United miles since I do not value the Jetblue points as much as a UA mile.

  53. Well I live in lower Manhattan and Newark is much easier to get to thank JFK. I’ll take Newark anytime over JFK. I could care less about the lounge. A lounge is a lounge.

  54. An appropriate cartoon indeed: http://www.newyorker.com/cartoons/daily-cartoon/tuesday-june-16-dolezal-jersey?mbid=social_facebook
    Ahem, everyone. JFK is just cooler. That aside, for all practical purposes I need to continue coming into JFK. The public transportation connections in and around JFK to manhattan and long island are the best. (Yes, I’ve tried public transportation all around Newark, the connections take double the time.)

    I will miss united! I’ve been a member for 25 years…In recent times as a gold member I really enjoyed the ps economy plus extra legspace and free movies on the SFO-JFK route. Virgin won’t be the same but they’re the natural transition for me, as that’s my husband’s airline.

  55. I think ALL of the NYC area airports generally suck.

    That said, I absolutely loathe trying to get to/from EWR. All of my business is in midtown, I usually am staying in LES/UES. It’s JFK/LGA for me. I think the facilities for both are sub-par at best, but they have the flights, connections, and ground transportation to make it workable. Maybe EWR makes sense if you are just connecting to another flight, but I don’t see it as viable for my NYC trips.

  56. Looks like UA didn’t really tell their FAs. You would think they would give them a heads up.

    unitedafa.org/news/details.aspx?id=12274

  57. Regardless of NY airport, all 3 of them are terrible to get to, from downtown at 4PM during the week.
    There are no cab’s to take you anywhere, let alone to a train station to get to any airport.

  58. No matter how “logical” it appears to be to move the UA operations to the former CO gates at EWR, it does not change the fact that EWR is a shockingly atrocious airport experience. Even with the expansion, it is still a horrid airport to use.

    I cannot imagine how having a “fortress” at EWR would allow UA to charge higher prices. No way. This is not like having a fortress in a one airport town. To convince people to go out to EWR, UA will have to charge lower prices.

  59. @ John — Would be nice in theory, though I doubt it. They have a fortress hub at Dulles, so don’t really need to offer a differentiated product. Not to mention it’s not as high yield of a premium market as NYC.

  60. Damn.
    There are many timeframes when NJ Transit only comes once an hour out of Newark while JFK trains leave every 10 min.

    The feeling of just getting off of an SFO -> EWR redeye and miss NJT by a minute then waiting on that damn seatless platform for an hour really blows.

    It sounds like frequent NYC travelers will be forced to face that scenario more.

  61. As an upper east-side Manhattanite, Newark is just not chic.
    The Newark Airport Express busses from Grand Central (area) are often bedbug-infested nightmares. NJT does not run late night. When they do, it’s mobbed with absolutely no room to sit, let alone stow valises.
    The only decent way to get to Newark is to either hire a car and driver $$$$, or to be born there.
    Then again, you want ME to take my Goyard luggage into UGH Jamaica and deal with those savages on the LIRR platforms? Are you mad? Or do you have a death wish?
    For what that’s worth, you might train through the Congo.
    What happened to those DIVINE helicopters from the Pan Am Building roof??

  62. United will be doing a reconfiguration of the domestic (Hawaii) 777-200s with lie-flat business, which will be supplementing the P.S. routes, so ultimately it may not be a drop in seat, as some mentioned.

  63. Sitting in the UA lounge as we speak for probably my last cross country flight on United. As someone who lives in NY and LA, and grew up in NJ, I know far too well that Newark Airport to Manhattan (and vice versa) is a nightmare. I’d consider it only if they dropped the Business Class fare substantially to incentivize me to navigate to Newark via NJ Transit, to Penn Station, etc. This seems like a classic bamboozle between the Port Authority of NY & NJ and United management…all of whom have now been fired or resigned once this plan became public.

  64. Terrible idea, another example of the Continental people ruining United…Newark is an awful airport and highly inconvenient to anyone who travels for business and does not live in NJ. I’m a 1K and its a really, really bad idea.

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