Finally! United’s Return To JFK Means Cheap Award Seats On Transcons

a white airplane in the sky

Throughout the pandemic, one thing that I noticed was a lack of truly affordable awards for domestic flights.  Even in the face of an unprecedented drop in demand, cheap award seats were hard to come by.  In the beginning of the pandemic, I wasn’t searching often.  As COVID-19 has stretched on, I’ve started to search more frequently as friends have asked for help finding flights.  Uniformly, I’ve not found nearly as many saver awards as I would have expected.  Even on routes that consistently have some saver award availability, such as Washington-Dulles to Orlando or Tampa, were surprisingly bare.  That appears to have changed, at least on two key routes.

United Airlines Announces Return To JFK

United Airlines made a decision a number of years back to retreat from the strategically important New York-JFK airport.  It cost them when it came to corporate contracts and onward international traffic.  JFK is one of those focal airports that’s just hard to retreat from and serve high-spend customers well.  There are very few people I’ve met who love flying out of JFK.  But, it’s necessary for folks in New York and for connecting traffic. After years way, United announced a return to the market this week.  View from the Wing notes that there’s tons of business class award space on JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO as a result. But, it’s not just business class.  There are 10,000 mile one-way award seats available aplenty on both routes:

a calendar with numbers and a green square

a calendar with numbers and a green square

This pattern repeats itself throughout the end of the year.  10,000 mile one-way coach awards on transcontinental routes are something we haven’t seen a ton of in the past couple of years.  Now, we have them pretty much every day.  But, given how little saver inventory has been available in general, it’s unclear how long this will last.

The Final Two Pennies

This amount of saver inventory on popular routes like JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO is something of an aberration in 2020.  If you’re considering a trip this year, book these quickly before United pulls the inventory.  You should be able to cancel without penalty for quite some time.  Points and miles haven’t been nearly the value I would have hoped thus far in the pandemic.  Here’s a chance to flip that script and redeem your points for a cheap coach flight (or comfy business class seat).  These routes are due to be operated in the short-term by planes with plenty of business class seats, so it should even be easy to score enough seats for a family of four to sit up front.

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  1. The flip side is in lieu of using 10,000/25,000 miles, the fare in coach is $89 one-way, and $499 in Polaris business. That’s some insane pricing.

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