United makes it official: Return to JFK airport set for February, thanks to pandemic travel lull

Key Points
  • United will resume its service at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on Feb. 1 with flights to California.
  • The airline ended service at JFK in October 2015 after losing money there.
  • A lull in traffic due to the coronavirus pandemic helped United find space at JFK.
United Airlines Boeing 767-400 ER Extended Range with 2x CF6-80 engines aircraft landing at Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport AMS EHAM in The Netherlands, the Dutch capital.
Economou | NurPhoto | Getty Images

United Airlines has set a date for its return to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport: Feb. 1.

The Chicago-based airline is taking advantage of a lull in traffic because of the coronavirus pandemic to grab some space at what is normally one of the country's most congested airports, CNBC first reported in September. The airline ended service at JFK in October 2015 after losing money there.

United is planning to operate Boeing 767-300ER planes to San Francisco and Los Angeles from Kennedy Airport's Terminal 7. Ankit Gupta, United's vice president of domestic network planning, said it could expand service with more frequencies or to other airports.

United serves the New York area from its hub at Newark Liberty International Airport, where it dominates service, and out of New York's LaGuardia Airport.

But United executives saw an opening at JFK. Airline capacity in New York state is down 65% this month from a year ago compared with the national average of just over 40%, according to Airlines for America, a trade group that represents United, American, Delta and other large U.S. airlines.