United Air­lines to stop flights to JFK in Oc­to­ber

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS - BY DAVID KOENIG

United Air­lines will stop fly­ing to John F. Kennedy In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Oc­to­ber and shift pre­mium cross-coun­try flights there to its nearby hub in Ne­wark, New Jersey.

The move will strengthen United’s po­si­tion in Ne­wark, where it is al­ready the dom­i­nant air­line, while with­draw­ing from an air­port where it lags far be­hind Delta, JetBlue and Amer­i­can in pas­sen­gers.

The prob­lem for United at JFK: It didn’t of­fer any con­nect­ing flights for pas­sen­gers who ar­rived from Los An­ge­les and San Fran­cisco. If those peo­ple wanted to travel on to Europe, they needed to catch a ride to Ne­wark or switch at JFK to another air­line.

Ex­ec­u­tives of United Con­ti­nen­tal Hold­ings Inc. said the JFK ser­vice has lost money over the past seven years, although they de­clined to say how much.

United has agreed to trade its JFK take­off and land­ing slots to Delta Air Lines Inc. in ex­change for Delta slots at Ne­wark Lib­erty In­ter­na­tional Air­port. Reg­u­la­tors would need to ap­prove that ar­range­ment.

United has re­duced

flights

to JFK for sev­eral years, and the only flights left there are on its pre­mium ser­vice, called p.s., which uses a sep­a­rate fleet of 15 Boe­ing 757 jets that were con­fig­ured with just 142 seats for more com­fort. Those flights of­fer ameni­ties such as lieflat seats as a lure for high-fare busi­ness trav­el­ers in­clud­ing Wall Street work­ers.

Air­line ex­ec­u­tives said that on Oct. 25, they will shift those flights to Ne­wark and add sev­eral more 757s now fly­ing across the At­lantic to the p.s. fleet. They said p.s. could ex­pand from 23 flights a day in Novem­ber to 32 flights a day by sum­mer 2016 and in­crease by nearly half the num­ber of lie-flat seats on the New York-Los An­ge­les and New York-San Fran­cisco routes.

“It makes us even stronger in the New York-New Jersey mar­ket,” said Jim Comp­ton, United’s chief rev­enue of­fi­cer. “Our cus­tomers have asked for that p.s. ser­vice into our premier hub.”

United also plans to ren­o­vate its Ter­mi­nal C lobby and up­grade its air­port lounges at Ne­wark. United has 270 em­ploy­ees at JFK. Ex­ec­u­tives said they would be of­fered jobs else­where but some lay­offs were likely.

Be­cause of con­ges­tion, take­off and land­ing rights — called slots — are lim­ited at New Yorkarea air­ports. United needs more slots to in­crease its p.s. ser­vice at Ne­wark, which led to the pro­posed swaps with Delta. Nei­ther air­line would dis­close fi­nan­cial terms of the swap.

Delta plans to use the ad­di­tional slots at JFK to add an ex­tra daily flight to and from Los An­ge­les and use larger, two-aisle planes on three of its daily flights to San Fran­cisco, said Delta spokesman An­thony Black.

Com­pe­ti­tion for high-fare fliers on the New York-Cal­i­for­nia routes has heated up. Last year, JetBlue Air­ways Corp. be­gan a ser­vice it calls Mint, with lie-flat seats and other perks. Amer­i­can Air­lines Group Inc. has copied United’s ap­proach by in­tro­duc­ing Air­bus A321 jets re­con­fig­ured for fewer but roomier seats on up to 18 daily flights on those routes.

AP

In this May 1 photo, United Air­lines jets are parked at Ne­wark Lib­erty In­ter­na­tional Air­port as the sun rises be­hind the New York City skyline, in Ne­wark, New Jersey.

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