United Airlines says it plans to halt service at New York’s Kennedy International Airport next month unless federal regulators allow it to operate more flights there.
Without the ability to expand its operations at the airport, it said in a memo to employees on Tuesday that United could not effectively compete with other JFK airlines. United currently operates two daily round trip flights to San Francisco and two more to Los Angeles.
“If we are unable to obtain additional provisions for several seasons, we will need to suspend service at JFK, effective at the end of October,” the airline said in a staff memo. “Obviously this would be a difficult and frustrating step to take and one we have worked very hard to prevent.”
United CEO Scott Kirby sent a letter last week to Billy Nolen, acting director of the Federal Aviation Administration, formally requesting more space at the airport. In a note on Tuesday, United noted that the airport has made infrastructure investments since 2008, including expanding runways, but has not expanded flight capacity.
United resumed flying from JFK in early 2021 after a five-year hiatus, and for more than a year explored ways to expand there to better compete with other airlines. Earlier in the pandemic, United operated more flights at JFK by tapping into capacity other carriers were not using, but now that travel has significantly recovered, those airlines have regained their take-off and landing permits.
The FAA said in a statement that it has always been exploring ways to use airspace safely and efficiently in congested areas.
“The agency should consider airspace capacity and runway capacity to assess how changes will affect flights at nearby airports,” she said. “Any additional slots in JFK will follow the established FAA process to award them fairly and increase competition.”
If United exit JFK, New Yorkers will still have access to the airline at LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport, a UN hub. The airline is set to operate more than 12,000 round trip flights From Newark this month and over 1,000 flights from LaGuardia.
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