USAirways Returns to JFK – Sort Of

By | September 7, 2006

The new USAirways still in many ways remains two carriers. It operates flights separately, it still has duplication of staff, and it has not settled various integration issues. In New York, the old USAirways pulled out of JFK to serve LaGuardia exclusively years ago, while America West has always flown to JFK.

Technically, the Las Vegas and Phoenix flights that were America West’s flights to New York City(as Mayor LaGuardia himself said, Newark is not in New York City, although it is an area airport) have to go to Kennedy. Since 1984, LaGuardia has been forbidden from receiving incoming and outgoing flights that exceed 1500 miles except on Saturdays(And to Denver, which was grandfathered in). While Delta has tried Saturday long distance service, in most cases it isn’t a practical expansion avenue.

Yesterday, September 6th, USAirways inaugurated its first service to JFK in years. Three flights a day, operated by Mesa Airlines as USAirways Express, using CRJ-900 86-seater aircraft, will go between JFK and Charlotte. This service is in direct response to Jetblue inaugurating service in July four times a day, using their 100 seater Embraer 190s.

USAirways maintains a hub in Charlotte, and has LaGuardia as a focus city. Thus it offers 10 flights a day between the two airports, as well as 8 flights to Newark. Thus, it can’t say it added these JFK flights as anything but a response to Jetblue invading its turf.

The flights don’t provide reasonable connections off their America West service. They already operate 4 nonstop flights to Phoenix from Charlotte, and 4 to Las Vegas. The only saving grace may be direct connections from Charlotte, which has a minimum of international service, to their Star Alliance partners that operate service out of JFK.

We wonder if either carrier will be a success on the route, and what will happen in the long run. We hope Jetblue will be, as despite USAirways repositioning as a low-cost carrier, the arrival of Jetblue tends to reduce restrictions and overpriced fares on a route.