United Will get Extra Seats On Flights By Transferring To Narrowbody Jets

United Airlines is changing its flights to and from New York’s John F Kennedy Airport. United’s Boeing 767-300s have been serving the airport since returning to JFK earlier this year. From October 5th, United’s aircraft at JFK will switch to Boeing 757-200s.

United Airlines will switch from JFK to Boeing 757-200 in October. Photo: Vincenzo Pace / Simple Flying

Overall, more seats from JFK, but fewer premium seats

The result is that slightly larger aircraft will serve United’s two sectors to and from JFK. United’s 757-200 seats 169 passengers versus 167 passengers carried in the Boeing 767-300. But the 767-300 has far more premium seats than the 757-200. As noted in One Mile At A Time, the reduction in premium seating capacity suggests that United’s attempt to use premium transcontinental traffic from JFK is not going as well as expected.

After a six-year absence, United Airlines returned to JFK to fly only two routes – the overland flights to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO). United’s main hub in New York is 33 miles west of Newark.

United is trying to secure a larger part of the lucrative business travel market for itself across the network. Last month, the airline confirmed that business travel is recovering faster than expected, reaching around 60% of 2019 levels.

The transcontinental routes between the economic centers of the east coast and the west coast are particularly lucrative. United’s problem was that many business travelers preferred JFK to Newark, and it lost market share and revenue to competing airlines. Delta Air Lines, JetBlue and American Airlines all offer a high quality, premium seating product across from JFK’s west coast airports.

United Narrowbody More SeatsUnited Boeing 767-300 will leave JFK in early October. Photo: Vincenzo Pace / Simple Flying

Market task or market reality?

With its Boeing 757-200 aircraft operating out of JFK, United Airlines will offer far more economy class seats and far fewer premium seats. And the remaining premium seats are less premium. United’s Polaris seats on the 767-300 have a desirable 1-1-1 layout while the layout on the 757-200 is 2-2.

Whether the change in aircraft type is a signal of surrender from United or a confirmation that there is more revenue chasing mainstream economy class passengers is a guess. But the vast majority of passengers don’t care much about aircraft types. Working up a sweat on aircraft types and cabin configurations is largely the job of frequent fliers and airline junkies.

United Narrowbody More SeatsA United Boeing 757-200 climbs out of LAX. Photo: Vincenzo Pace / Simple Flying

The gist of United’s plane swap

United has two daily departures from JFK to LAX, UA515 departing at 8:45 AM and UA517 departing at 6:50 PM. The final 767-300 departure is UA515 on October 5th. UA517 that evening and scheduled flights thereafter are listed on United’s online flight schedules, which operate from 757-200.

The last United 767-300 from LAX is UA516, departing at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, October 4th. 200s.

United Airlines also offers two daily round-trip flights from JFK-SFO. From JFK, UA521 departs at 8:00 AM and UA523 departs at 5:10 PM. The Boeing 757-200 will fly UA523 for the first time on Tuesday, October 5th, after which it will operate both flights to San Francisco.

The 757-200 takes over from SFO heading east on the morning of October 5th. The aircraft type will debut this morning on UA520, departing at 9:00 a.m. Thereafter, the 757-200 will operate both the UA520 and the UA522 afternoon flight to JFK.

United doesn’t say much about the plane change. But despite its lackluster status, the United 757-200 fleet has its fans. While many might condemn United to pull their 767s from JFK, many more don’t get excited. Regardless of the aircraft type, the longer term question is whether United can operate its overland flights from JFK

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