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United Airlines threatens to drop JFK service if U.S. doesn’t approve more flights

United argues there's room to grow at the 13th-busiest U.S. airport because the FAA and the Port Authority have made infrastructure investments since 2008.
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The United Airlines terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City on July 22, 2014.Eric Thayer / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — United Airlines said on Tuesday it plans to end service in October to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport if the Federal Aviation Administration does not grant the air carrier additional flights.

United Chief Executive Scott Kirby wrote to Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen last week to urge him to increase capacity at JFK, according to an email Tuesday by the airline to employees that was seen by Reuters.

United is flying just twice daily to San Francisco and Los Angeles from JFK, the busiest New York-area airport, after resuming service in 2021.

“If we are not able to get additional allocations for multiple seasons, we will need to suspend service at JFK, effective at the end of October,” United’s email said.

The FAA said in a statement Tuesday it “must consider airspace capacity and runway capacity to assess how changes would affect flights at nearby airports. Any additional slots at JFK would follow the FAA’s well-established process of awarding them fairly and to increase competition.”

United said it had been working to pursue additional slots — which are takeoff and landing authorizations — through the FAA and market at JFK “so that we can grow to be more competitive” and said without permanent slots it cannot serve JFK “effectively compared to the larger schedules and more attractive flight times flown by our competitors” like JetBlue Airways and American Airlines.

United in 2015 struck a long-term deal to lease 24 year-round slots at JFK to Delta Air Lines as it ended JFK service to concentrate at its nearby Newark hub in northern New Jersey.

United argues there is room to grow at JFK, the 13th-busiest U.S. airport, because the FAA and the Port Authority since 2008 have made significant infrastructure investments including “the widening of runways, construction of multi-entrance taxiways, and the creation of aligned high-speed turnoffs.”

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In June, the FAA approved United’s request to temporarily cut about 50 daily summer departures from its Newark airport hub to address congestion, representing 12% of United’s 425 daily flights at Newark. United is the dominant carrier at Newark, operating 69% of flights.