United Airlines flies to JFK for the first time since 2015, taking advantage of pandemic lull

  • United last flew to JFK in 2015 and the current CEO called that departure a mistake.
  • The Chicago-based airline is starting out with two round trips from Los Angeles and San Francisco to JFK.
  • United, like other carriers, are taking advantage of a lull in traffic because of Covid-19 to explore once-congested airports.

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United Airlines on Sunday is set to fly to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport for the first time in more than five years as the carrier takes advantage of a lull in air travel to snag space at the once-congested airport.

United's JFK service kicks off with a 7:30 a.m. PT flight from Los Angeles International Airport and a 9:30 a.m. PT flight from its San Francisco International Airport hub. Both will be operated with a Boeing 767-300. The JFK-San Francisco flight takes off at 5:10 p.m. ET and to Los Angeles at 7 p.m. ET.

United's New York-area service is concentrated at its Newark Liberty International Airport hub and at New York's LaGuardia Airport.

Carriers have pulled back service to the Northeast during the Covid-19 pandemic with business and international travel still at paltry levels, though domestic leisure demand has ticked up nationally.

Airlines' scheduled service in New York state is down 56% in April compared with the same month of 2019, more than any other state, according to Airlines for America, an industry group that represents most large U.S. carriers. The national average is a 32% decline. That makes it easier for airlines to add service.

United CEO Scott Kirby, who took the reins last May, has said leaving JFK in October 2015 was a mistake and has expressed a desire to return to the New York City airport because moving transcontinental flights to Newark allowed competitor American Airlines to win some lucrative corporate clients.

CNBC in September first reported United was planning to return to JFK.

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