United Airlines said it might temporarily stop flying out and in of Kennedy International Airport in Latest York at the tip of October after struggling to realize a competitive foothold there.
In a note to employees on Friday, the airline said it had had “constructive” conversations with the Federal Aviation Administration about expanding United’s presence at J.F.K., where flights are tightly regulated. The agency was committed to creating improvements, but such changes would take time, United said.
“Given our current, too-small-to-be-competitive schedule out of J.F.K. — coupled with the beginning of the winter season, where more airlines will operate their slots as they resume J.F.K. flying — United has made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend service at J.F.K.,” it said.
The airline had formally restarted flights out of the airport last 12 months after a five-year hiatus. United had offered service at J.F.K. earlier within the pandemic by making the most of unused takeoff and landing authorizations, often called slots, that had been awarded to other airlines. But now that travel demand has recovered, those airlines have reclaimed those slots.
The announcement comes amid a court trial through which American Airlines and JetBlue Airways are defending an alliance they formed in Latest York and Boston, which they argue is vital to compete with the dominant airlines in those cities: United and Delta Air Lines. The Justice Department is suing to interrupt up that partnership, arguing that it’s anticompetitive.
United had warned weeks earlier that it would leave J.F.K., where about 100 United employees work. All of its J.F.K. employees are being moved to nearby airports, the airline said. Newark Liberty International Airport, which is just outside Latest York, is a United hub.
Within the 12 months ending in September, United operated fewer than 3,000 flights out and in of J.F.K., accounting for lower than 1 percent of airport traffic there, in accordance with Cirium, an aviation data provider. United operated about 266,000 flights over the identical period at Newark, accounting for about 70 percent of that airport’s traffic.
The F.A.A. said in a press release that it was working to accommodate more flight capability at airports within the Latest York City region.
“We’ll follow our fair and well-established process to award future slots to extend competition between airlines so passengers have more options,” it said. “We’re encouraged United will retain and relocate its J.F.K. staff to its other Latest York City airports.”
United said its decision to depart J.F.K. is temporary. The last flights into the airport are scheduled for Oct. 29, and United said it’s working to accommodate customers whose plans are affected by the move.