There is one factor that people aren't considering. I am sure I am going to get seriously flamed for this. Let me say that I don't *agree* with this attitude but that it is a fact that it is prevelant in New York.
To many native New Yorkers,
EWR = Ugh Jersey (as in Jersey Shore, Chris Christie, big hair, shopping malls, the Situation). Again I am not saying that this is right, let's call it outright snobbery, but for native New Yorkers, as opposed to people visiting from elsewhere or transplants, that attitude is common. I can't tell you how many times I've heard from people in the heyday of awesome Continental, "I'm not flying out of Newark and have to sit next to some Guido from Tenafly for 8 effing hours."
Bigoted, yes, obnoxiously snobbish, unfair stereotype,check, but as a native New Yorker I see it every day. New Jersey is a punchline on this side of the Hudson. It isn't fair and it is juvenile but it is also a fact.
So UAL has a few choices instead of highlighting how close EWR is to Manhattanites.
1. Change NY-ers attitudes about New Jersey. (United - close to Manhattan and Chris Christie free! Have Frank Sinatra in the ads if they can get rights.)
2. Highlight EWR's closeness to people going *to* New York who don't have that New York attitude against all things on the other side of the Hudson
3. Say screw you and your f**ing attitude, New York, our hub is Jersey and we're proud! Obviously in a nice way, but United, Jersey proud with maybe some pictures of The Jersey Turnpike as an in your face "owning" the stereotype.
I wont "flame" you but I feel I need to provide a broader perspective. First, I am a native New Yorker, born in Manhattan, went to University in Manhattan, went to clubs in Manhattan (starting at Studio 54) and have lived as an adult in the West Village and SoHo since 1985. I love NYC and I'd rather die than live anywhere else, but nor do I have any scorn for people who don't like NYC. There are very few of us who can say "I am a born and raised New Yorker" I am told all the time "gosh, don't meet many people here who are actually from NYC".
Most people I know, in fact ALL of my friends have moved here from many parts from across the USA, many from NJ. Yes, all cliche's are based in some truth, but when I think about Newark airport, I do not think of Snooky, or the Soprano's. or the cliche stereotypes that New Jersey can conjure up that you mention above. Sure, sometimes when you go to NJ you see the tacky people you mention with big hair and many stuck in the 1980's wearing acid wash jeans. You can also come to NYC and meet total ELITIST SNOBS. The snobbiest NYer I've ever met is a woman who comes from the back woods of Tennessee. She believes she's the real Holly GoLightly!
In my experience we NYC natives do hold some snooty opinions and prejudices, but have we them for for people from The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, Connecticut, "Jersey" and and especially Staten Island. No different that any other place holds cliche stereotypes in their respective areas. In fact "some" of the residents of Brooklyn and Queens who live around JFK are among the most cliched outer borough folk (Personally I had a crush on Tony Manero). I have heard some serious vitriol from residents of Cincinnati about people from Cleveland and vice versa. Londoners against Liverpudlians and Paulista's against Cariocas in Brazil...etc, etc, etc. It's unfortunate HUMAN behavior.
But I have always found irony in the fact that the people who have resided in NYC for decades, but have moved here from other places (be it Ohio or Texas and even New Jersey...etc) to hold and vocalize MORE negative associations against New Jersey than those of us who grew up with NJ next door, another state, but very much part of the NYC metropolitan area.
I believe that more people (way more than perhaps you and others think) actually consider EWR as just 1 of 3 airports that serve NYC than you'd think. The "urban" atmosphere of NYC well extends to EWR...the Polaski Skyway is a spectacular, massive urban structure. And now it's all been fixed up like new. Newark Airport is a bona fide part of this mega 23 million people metro area.
My beef is that if United wanted to, they could invest more (and faster) in EWR in many, many ways to create the area's favorite airline, but there are too many shortfalls with UA to get there when all they do is try and match Delta and not try to truly INNOVATE...which they should (IMHO) do quickly in order to compete more effectively out of EWR. And I am not just talking about "Polaris", it's not just about proving that the distance and traffic (although I would bet they have overwhelming data that says that distance is the #1 hurdle for them) but in public transport and develop a far better reputation for their economy class and customer service. Everyone, even NYers, love turn around stories.