United Airlines said it would temporarily stop flying in and out of Kennedy International Airport in New York at the end of October after struggling to gain a competitive foothold there.
In a note to employees on Friday, the airline said that it had “constructive” conversations with the Federal Aviation Administration about expanding United’s presence at J.F.K., where flights are tightly regulated. The agency was committed to making improvements, but such changes would take time, United said.
“Given our current, too-small-to-be-competitive schedule out of J.F.K. — coupled with the start of the winter season where more airlines will operate their slots as they resume J.F.K. flying — United has made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend service at J.F.K.,” it said.
The airline had formally restarted flights out of the airport last year following a five-year hiatus. United had offered service at J.F.K. earlier in the pandemic by taking advantage of unused takeoff and landing authorizations, known as slots, that had been awarded to other airlines. But now that travel demand has recovered, those airlines have reclaimed those slots.
The announcement comes amid a court trial in which American Airlines and JetBlue Airways are defending an alliance they formed in New York and Boston, which they argue is necessary to compete with the dominant airlines in those cities: United and Delta Air Lines. The Justice Department is suing to break up that partnership, arguing that it is anticompetitive.
The United news on Friday came as little surprise: The airline had warned weeks earlier that it may leave J.F.K., where about 100 United employees work. All of its J.F.K. workers are being moved to nearby airports, the airline said. Newark Liberty International Airport, which is just outside of New York, is a United hub.
In the year ending in September, United operated fewer than 3,000 flights in and out of J.F.K., accounting for less than 1 percent of airport traffic there, according to Cirium, an aviation data provider. United operated about 266,000 flights over the same period at Newark, accounting for about 70 percent of that airport’s traffic.
The F.A.A. said in a statement that it was working to accommodate more flight capacity at airports in the New York City region.
“We will follow our fair and well-established process to award future slots to increase competition between airlines so passengers have more options,” it said. “We are encouraged United will retain and relocate its J.F.K. staff to its other New York City airports.”
United said that its decision to leave J.F.K. was temporary. The last flights into the airport are scheduled for Oct. 29 and United said it was working to accommodate customers whose plans are affected by the move.