United Airlines Pushes Back Its Return To New York JFK (Again)

a tall building in a city

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Update 28 March 2021: United Airlines has now launched services from New York JFK to Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

Back in November, United Airlines announced that it was planning to reintroduce service out of New York JFK at the beginning of February 2021. Then, in early January, that proposed launch date was moved back to the end of February. Now, that launch date has been moved once again.

United’s original plan was to launch non-stop services from New York JFK to Los Angeles and San Francisco on 1 February and to serve both routes twice daily out of JFK Terminal 7. The follow-up plan was to launch the services on 28 February, and now, based on what the airline has told Zach Griff, the new routes will not be operational before 28 March.

Per United:

Due to the continued impact of COVID-19 on our industry, we are delaying the start of our service between New York’s JFK Airport and our hubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles until March 28, 2021. Throughout the pandemic, United has been a leader in nimbly reshaping our schedule to match customer demand, and we look forward to offering this convenient service and a best-in-class product from New York City to the west coast.

It will be interesting to see if United manages to stick to its revised target as it’s not only the two launch date changes that suggest that United may not be as convinced of the merits of its JFK plans as it was late last year – the airline has also cut the planned frequencies on both new routes quite dramatically.

Where, originally, United was scheduled to operate 2 daily flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco for a total of 28 weekly flights, the airline now says that both routes will only be served 5x/week. The new flight times have yet to be loaded into the booking systems but the early indications appear to suggest that it will be the afternoon/evening flights out of JFK and the early flights from the west coast that survive the cuts.

The possible flight timings are as follows:

Los Angeles Route

UA517 JFK 19:00 – 22:29 LAX (Mon, Thu, Fri, Sat & Sun)
UA514 LAX 07:30 – 15:50 JFK (Mon, Thu, Fri, Sat & Sun)

San Francisco Route

UA523 JFK 17:10 – 20:47 SFO (Mon, Thu, Fri, Sat & Sun)
UA520 SFO 09:10 – 17:40 JFK (Mon, Thu, Fri, Sat & Sun)

These schedules are correct as of 28 March 2021.

The Aircraft

The launch date may have changed a couple of times and the frequencies on both routes may be about to change, but the aircraft that United plans to use on its new transcon routes remains the same.

The 767-300 aircraft that United will be operating on the new JFK routes are, as the airline describes them, “reconfigured” and offer customers “an extended premium cabin featuring 16 additional United Business class seats”.

a map of seats with numbers and symbols

In total these aircraft offer 46 Business Class, 22 Premium Plus seats, 47 Economy Plus seats, and 52 regular Economy Class seats so they’re suitably “premium heavy” for routes on which there will be high demand for the more comfortable seats.

Bottom Line

After a 5-year break, United Airlines still plans to bring back transcontinental service to New York JFK but it won’t be doing it in February 2021 as planned. As things stand, the airline’s new routes to Los Angeles and San Francisco will launch on 28 March, and instead of offering the originally planned double-daily services, United will offer just five flights per week on both routes.


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