United Airlines said Tuesday that it would return to Kennedy International Airport in February, a move that could intensify competition between large airlines once the pandemic is brought under control.
Starting Feb. 1, the airline will operate four daily flights out of Terminal 7 at J.F.K., two to San Francisco and two to Los Angeles. The flights will use the airline’s Boeing 767-300ER planes, which used to ferry passengers across the Atlantic Ocean. The planes can carry nearly 170 travelers and will include 46 business class seats each.
The country’s four major airlines have in recent years concentrated their operations at their biggest airports, which some experts refer to as fortress hubs. That means United, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines often do not compete extensively at many airports.
But that might be changing somewhat now. Last month, Southwest Airlines announced plans to expand from smaller airports serving Chicago and Houston to those city’s larger airports, O’Hare International and George Bush Intercontinental. O’Hare is a big hub for United and American and Intercontinental is dominated by United.
United left Kennedy in October 2015 after failing to make a profit there for seven years, amid intense competition. United had been operating six daily flights from Kennedy to Los Angeles and seven to San Francisco. By bringing those flights to Newark, United said at the time that it could better serve customers on the West Coast with connections to Europe.
“I have been waiting a long time to say this — United Airlines is back at J.F.K.,” the airline’s chief executive, 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.”
The return to Kennedy could provide the same opportunities to customers seeking connections aboard United’s partner airlines. Japan’s All Nippon Airways, a member of the Star Alliance network with United, already operates out of Terminal 7.