“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” Those words from the venerable John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the United States, must have recently resonated with United Airlines. As of October 25, United Airlines, which has enjoyed a prominent presence at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport since the 1950s, will completely exit the iconic airport as it looks forward to more promising prospects. The airline has already started pulling out of JFK, where, for the last seven years, it was unsuccessful at turning a profit because it offered few connections to other cities. United’s plan is to consolidate all its NYC-area operations to Newark International Airport and LaGuardia Airport. At LaGuardia, United will add larger Boeing 767 aircraft to trans-Atlantic flights currently served by 757s. The 757s will switch to transcontinental routes. The move is an effort by United to score more travelers in the highly competitive and lucrative transcontinental markets. Its rivals, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways, have spent liberally, sprucing up aircraft cabins and airport terminals, in an attempt to attract passengers. United is transferring the revamped premium service 757 aircraft to Newark. When it’s complete, customers will have access to connecting flights, new restaurants and state-of-the-art technology displays, thanks to a hefty $2 billion investment. United promises the greatest number of transcontinental flights, some 56 departures daily on peak days in November, compared with American’s 36 and Delta’s 30.
United is selling its JFK landing slots to Delta, and, pending regulatory approval, acquiring additional space at Newark from Delta. Newark, United is eager to point out, is roughly the same distance from midtown Manhattan as JFK, albeit in the opposite direction. “Manhattan business travelers, particularly those who work on Wall Street and throughout lower and western Manhattan, enjoy easy access to Newark Liberty, the most convenient of the three New York-area airports,” United said in a statement.
Driving from midtown Manhattan to JFK or Newark (EWR) takes about half an hour by car, absent traffic, and about an hour and 15 minutes by public transportation. On the heels of United’s big news, JetBlue announced that it is expanding its Mint service from JFK to Los Angeles and San Francisco. One plane door closes, and another one opens.