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United seeks return to New York JFK

United Airlines wants to return to New York John F Kennedy International airport three years after ending service there.

Scott Kirby, president of the Chicago-based carrier, said United would like to return to JFK but "doesn’t see a feasible organic solution to getting back in there", a summary of his presentation at the Wolfe Research Global Transportation Conference on 22 May shows. The presentation was not webcast.

United would have to acquire slots from another carrier to re-enter JFK, as well as secure terminal and gate space at the airport.

Kirby declined to answer questions about possible inorganic options to return to JFK, in response to questions from Wolfe analysts.

He also did not comment on where United would like to fly from JFK, according to the report. However, transcontinental routes to Los Angeles and San Francisco that are popular with corporate travellers are likely candidates.

United ended service to New York JFK in October 2015, when it moved its premium transcontinental flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco to Newark Liberty International airport, and suspended flights to Washington Dulles.

Kirby, who was president of American Airlines in 2015, told United employees in April 2017 that the move was the "wrong decision".

The decision was in response to increased competitive pressure on transcontinental routes from New York JFK, particularly from American and JetBlue Airways who separately introduced their own premium transcontinental products in 2014. Last year, Kirby acknowledged that he worked to push United out of JFK when he was at Fort Worth, Texas-based American.

United sold its 26 slots at JFK to Delta Air Lines when it ended service to the airport. The Atlanta-based carrier, which is also the largest at JFK, began using the slots on 1 November 2015.

In addition, the airline vacated its gates and facilities in British Airways-controlled terminal 7 at JFK. Alaska Airlines took over some of that space when it consolidated its operations at the airport in terminal 7 in October 2017.

United is the largest carrier across New York's three airports – JFK, LaGuardia and Newark – with a 23% share of seats during the year ending in May, FlightGlobal schedules data shows. Delta had a 22.4% share, American a 13.2% share and hometown JetBlue a 12.7% share.

United plans to grow capacity by 4.5-5.5% in 2018, and by 4-6% annually in 2019 and 2020. Much of that growth is focused on the US domestic market where the airline is trying to recapture what Kirby views as its "natural share".

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