Airline Weekly

United Beats JetBlue Into Newark Airport’s New Terminal A That Opens in 2022

Which airlines will operate from a new terminal under construction at Newark Liberty International Airport is a hot topic in the hyper-competitive New York City market.

United Airlines, which operates a large hub at the airport, is the shoo-in favorite. But JetBlue Airways, which elbowed its way to a larger share of the Newark market during the coronavirus pandemic, is also seen as a strong contender for some of the new Terminal A’s 33 gates.

Now, Airline Weekly confirms that United will be among the first to operate from the new terminal. The Chicago-based carrier plans to begin flights with narrowbody aircraft — from Airbus A320 family jets to Boeing 757s — from 10 gates in Terminal A around April 2022, according to a memo from United’s Newark Chief Pilot Fabian Garcia on Wednesday. The airline will expand to 20 gates in the facility by April 2023.

However, a spokesperson for United said the airline will use just 12 gates in Terminal A.

That leaves between 13 and 21 gates for other carriers in the new terminal. Those will be assigned to Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and JetBlue and United, said a spokesperson for Newark operator the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. They did not comment on the number of gates United will use.

Newark Terminal A is just one of many improvement works underway at New York’s three main airports. Work on the new central terminal, or Terminal B, at LaGuardia continues and is due to wrap up next year. The first taxiway under one of its dual aerial pedestrian bridges opened on Thursday. And Delta Air Lines is using the slowdown in air traffic to speed work on the new Terminal C at LaGuardia, shaving as much as a year off a construction timeline that stretches to 2026.

At New York JFK, redevelopment projects are underway at Terminals 1, 4, 5 and 8. These works will eventually replace Terminals 2 and 7, that will be demolished.

Elsewhere around the U.S., new terminals and concourses that were begun before the crisis have opened in Nashville, Portland, Ore., Salt Lake City and at Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National airport over the past year.

Some would consider all of the terminal improvements at New York’s airports as just lipstick on a pig without changes to air traffic management. JFK and LaGuardia are slot controlled; and Newark is schedule-facilitated, where airlines can theoretically fly as much as they want with the Federal Aviation Administration facilitating that movements are spread throughout the day. In reality, prior to the crisis, it was extremely difficult for non-incumbent carriers like JetBlue and Spirit Airlines to expand at Newark during peak periods.

The new Terminal A at Newark will not change its runway limits. However, it will add needed terminal space and upgraded facilities for airlines. The old Terminal A, which dates to 1973, will be demolished. Terminals B and C will remain.

In 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic prompted a dramatic drop in air traveller numbers, United had a nearly 63 percent share — down two points from 65 percent in 2019 — of the 15.4 million travelers that passed through Newark, according to U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics data via Cirium. JetBlue grew its share by nearly four points to 8.6 percent from 2019 to 2020.

United plans to operate up to 228 daily departures and JetBlue 60 departures from Newark in June, Cirium schedules show. That represents a 48 percent drop for the former but a nearly doubling in departures for the latter compared to two years ago.

Story updated with comments from both the Port Authority and United.

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