Tagged: JFK

No More United at Kennedy Airport

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Sixty-eight years ago yesterday, on June 17, 1947, Pan Am launched the first round-the-world flight, Flight 001, between San Francisco, Honolulu, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Delhi, Beirut, Istanbul, Frankfurt, London, and finally New York. Flight 002 originated in New York and would transit through those same cities on an eastbound course. Over time, the particular routing and destinations would change, but it remained a route until Pan Am ceased operations in the early 1990s. The last airline to fly this route was United Airlines, in the late 1990s, and the last segment of this route to survive is United flying between JFK and LAX.

Yesterday, I learned that United Airlines will be ceasing flights on my most frequently travelled route— between JFK and LAX— and moving those flights to its “New York” hub in Newark, New Jersey.

We have made the decision to move our p.s. service from New York JFK to Newark Liberty International Airport. Effective October 25, all of our p.s. flights between New York and both Los Angeles and San Francisco will operate out of our hub at Newark, and we’ll discontinue our service out of JFK.

This ends United’s presence at JFK airport and moves these venerable transcontinental flights to New Jersey. This is personally inconvenient for me because I live on the same landmass as JFK airport: crossing two rivers to get to Newark can take hours. But it is also a bit sad because of nostalgia. My first flight to New York, in 1998, was on United’s LAX to JFK route. Unlike the other United flights I had taken—especially the short-haul flights between California cities— this was a much different experience.

  • United flew the JFK to LAX route on a dedicated fleet of wide-body Boeing 767 jets.
  • The flights to and from LAX and SFO at JFK arrived and departed from a dedicated area at Terminal 6, while the flights to other destinations, such as London, Chicago, Hong Kong, etc. departed from Terminal 7.
  • There were three classes of service: basic Economy class, what United called Connoisseur class (equivalent to today’s business class), and an even more luxurious First class.
  • The flight numbers were low, like a prestigious Manhattan address. My first outbound to JFK was on UA 10 and my return was on UA 1.

Over the years, the flights changed. They were downgauged to single-aisle 757 aircraft in 2004, which made for a more fuel-efficient operation, and inaugurated the dedicated Premium Service (p.s.) fleet. Some time after 9/11, United moved its California-bound flights to Terminal 7 at JFK, which consolidated all of its flights to that terminal.

Then the merger happened, and there were more changes. United eliminated its First and consolidated its premium seats into a single BusinessFirst cabin. Then the flight numbers changed.

Flight numbers might seem meaningless to most passengers, but if an airline assigns a particular flight a low number, it suggests its importance to the carrier. The early evening flight to LAX was UA 25, the early morning flight to SFO was UA 3, and the redeye from LAX was UA 18 for many years. And my first flight from JFK to LAX was a segment of a round-the-world flight that United inherited from Pan Am. Flight 1 passed through New York-JFK, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Bangkok, New Delhi, London, and finally back to JFK, and Flight 2 did the same in reverse. But in recent years, JFK-LAX/SFO flights were assigned three-digit numbers. The only references to their distinct character was that some recent JFK-SFO flights were numbered 415—the area code of San Francisco—and some eastbound LAX-JFK flights were numbered 212—the area code for Manhattan. As an affront to my Angeleno pride, there was no flight 213.

But starting in late October, there will be no more flights to JFK. Flying to New York from Los Angeles or San Francisco will require a connection in Chicago, Denver, Houston or Washington to arrive at LaGuardia airport. Or it will require, what LaGuardia airport’s namesake hated more than anything: landing in New Jersey.

My Last Apollo Flight

Last United Apollo Flight

For the fifty-ninth time, I flew between JFK and LAX, which I did for my nephew Alex’s second birthday.

Of those fifty-eight flights, all but four have been on United Airlines, and Thursday’s flight was the last I would fly through United’s now-retired reservation system Apollo. As of March 3, the new United switched to SHARES, Continental’s legacy system. Since I have a fascination with deprecated technology, it is interesting to see a long standing technology platform go by the wayside. But unlike most technologies, which either fail or fade into obscurity because they stop working, Apollo is being retired because of a corporate merger, and a merged airline needs only one reservations system.

The end of Apollo won’t mean the end of anything for my flying or anyone else’s, other than the backend computer system that processes flight reservations and other passenger services. However, it’s hard not to feel a bit nostalgic as it marks the end of an era.

Our First Mileage Run


Perhaps it is a bad sign that Sarah and I didn’t get to ride our bikes to Montauk this year, but we are taking our first mileage run this weekend. We will be going to Seattle, by way of Los Angeles, leaving at 7:00 AM on Saturday morning and landing at JFK just 24 hours later.

I upgraded our seats to business class on the westbound JFK-LAX segment so we will have a very comfortable place to sleep and a little breakfast once airborne. Unfortunately, we won’t have the sundae bar, which is one of my favorite parts of flying United’s JFK-LAX/SFO business class service, but we will have an almost lie-flat bed. We have a long layover in Los Angeles on the outbound portion and will be having breakfast with my dad at Pann’s Restaurant near LAX. On the turnaround in Seattle, which begins about three hours after we land in Seattle, we will be having dinner with Sarah’s friend Grace at Thirteen Coins, what Sarah calls an old man restaurant near the Seattle Airport.

Sandwich at Thirteen Coins

The inbound portion of the run will be pretty streamlined with no long connections so there won’t be much time for any more visiting. At best, we will have time to hang out at the club, get a nightcap, board our flight, and get some sleep after a long day and almost 6,900 butt-in-seat miles.

Second Annual Labor Day Weekend VDB

A funny thing happened on the way back from a Labor Day-weekend trip from Los Angeles.

I was scheduled to go from Burbank to Newark, via a connection in San Francisco. The flight from Burbank went as smooth as a flight could go, except for spilling club soda on myself, but what can you do? The other flight however was oversold, and they were looking for volunteers. This happened to me last year, and I was so pleased with the compensation that I always try to volunteer whenever possible. It’s what it’s known as Volunteer Denied Boarding, or VDB.

It turns out that they needed my seat, and about a dozen others, and I stayed behind, for a little compensation, of course.

Travel Credits

United’s policy is to offer $400 in travel credits, in $100 increments, and these are useful to have throughout the year. The best part is that, unlike the old free trip vouchers, these actually accrue mileage.

Hotel Voucher

Since I am an out-of-towner in San Francisco, the airline provided me a free hotel voucher. It was at the Holiday Inn Express in Burlingame, a relatively dingy property compared to the other Holiday Inn Express properties I’ve stayed. I did manage to get a full night’s sleep and a shower so that’s all I really need.

Amenities Kit

A few years ago I learned that if your bag leaves without you and you are stranded overnight, the airline will provide you with an amenities kit with your standard toiletries. To get one, simply go to the airline’s baggage claim office, present your baggage claim check, and you’ll get your kit.

Upgrade to Business Class

Instead of being rebooked on the first flight out of Newark, I was offered a business class seat to JFK. Last year, I got a double upgrade to First Class but Business class will do just fine.

Meal Voucher

I’m not exactly sure why I got one of these, but I received a dinner voucher. Since everything was closed by the time I got all my compensation coupons, I used it for lunch at Yankee Pier. The voucher didn’t cover my entire bill, but it was nice to have subsidized seafood at an airport. Much better than your usual airport offerings.

I’m about to board my flight to JFK so almost all the goodies have been used up. All that’s left is to figure out where to go with those travel credits.