Almost six years after leaving John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), United Airlines has resumed operations within Terminal 7.
On Sunday, March 28, United welcomed flights from its two West Coast hubs to New York Airport since its departure in October 2015.
The date was marked by the afternoon arrival of United flight UA514 from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to JFK. Next, United passengers took off from JFK for San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Both flights were parked at gate 3.
As of now, United offers direct service to LAX and SFO with round-trip flights available five days a week. For them, the airline is deploying a Boeing 767-300ER, which includes 46 full-aisle business class seats and 22 United Premium Plus seats.
According to David Kinzelman, United’s vice president of global airport operations, these west coast routes were offered before United cut off service to and from JFK.
“I think our return to JFK is a renewal of our commitment to New York and it shows that we are opportunistic,” Kinzelman said. “We are looking for every possible opportunity to fly where our customers want to fly, especially during the pandemic.”
Asked about the decision to suspend JFK’s operations in 2015, Kinzelman explained that United officials believed it was the best decision for the airline and its customers. “At the time, we chose to consolidate our transcontinental routes from Newark because we were investing heavily there,” he said.
United then consolidated its flights with domestic routes from LaGuardia (LGA) and international and transcontinental flights from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). However, in recent years, Kinzelman said the airline executives have become “very vocal about coming back to JFK.”
United plans to see that West Coast flight schedule increase to a twice-daily frequency in May.
At Gate 3, the inbound LAX flight on March 28 aired with a bang with a table full of United swag as well as media and audiovisual geeks in attendance. United employees also joined in the celebration, with the first departing flight crew of the OFS and gate agents posing for photos with each other. Some United staff have said they were employed by the carrier before his absence from JFK.
Passengers were also excited about the occasion, pulling out their cell phones to take photos and videos. Some were surprised to learn that they had to fly on the inaugural route.
Originally, Christos Adamopoulos was scheduled to fly back from New York to San Francisco on Alaska Airlines. His flight was canceled on Sunday and he ended up being rebooked on United.
“Since everyone’s taking pictures, I wanted to see why, so I searched online,” Adamopoulos said while waiting at the door.
“It’s exciting,” he said of the occasion. “It’s a bit like a pop-up store.”
Having lived in New York and traveling to San Francisco for four years, Natalie Morin said she saw no indication of the maiden flight when booking her ticket. Someone waiting at the door told him what had happened.
“I’m pretty loyal to United, but it was always a bit difficult going to Newark every time,” said Morin. “So now that’s going to make things a lot more convenient for me, so I’m happy with that.”