United, under Kirby and Nocella, is unequivocallly prepared to lose money at JFK to build its presence. When the slot exemptions expire at the conclusion of the IATA S22 season, United loses its right to operate flights using those slots. Simple as that. If United is unable to secure slots by way of some other arrangement (as they claim in this "leaked" memorandum), they can't fly to JFK anymore. It's not about gates, lounges, hard product, 757s, Jeff Smisek, meal service, or anything else.
There seems to be some perception that United is "threatening" to leave JFK because of financial underperformance. That is not the case.
You make it sound like United is getting evicted after IATA S22 ends. Even United isn't saying that. They say it's all about not getting incremental growth slots.
But even if United was getting evicted, which they're not, it's not as though they entered JFK or this business plan with permanent slots/leases. There have been slots for sale/lease available at JFK since September, 2020. There are plenty of reasons why United may have thought they could've done better and waited for the FAA Santa Claus or for a better option, but there have been available JFK slots.
Evicted? No. But United does not hold permanent JFK slots for its use. At the end of S22, the exemptions expire. Without permanent slots or some usage agreement (which there might well be… that’s not public information) United has to drop its flights. This isn’t rocket science.
Premium transcontinental-viable slots? Nope. We’ve been through this before. United isn’t interested in 10pm JFK departure slots, or whatever else was in the Norwegian slot portfolio. Who’s selling to UA? American? Delta? JetBlue? BA? Good luck with that. Lufthansa and it’s three slot pairs? Where, pray tell?
I'm sure UA knows the amazing leverage they have in the NYC area to barter for better timed slots at JFK whether via LGA slots or access to EWR gates. To say nothing of their plenty of other slots/gates they have in places like Heathrow, DCA, or Chicago where plenty of carriers would like to bargain with them.
Their decision not to use those is probably smart, but it is a choice and should be regarded as such. It's hard to make this "we're fully committed to JFK but we can't get what we want" argument when United is arguably holding the best bartering hand of any airline to get what they want at JFK. They're just choosing to try to get them for free via the FAA rather than give up their other valuable assets.
Per Star... it's not really my job to tell United how to bargain with Star (whether it's AV, a company they actually owned via default a few years ago, Copa, or LH Group) or nearly any Asian carrier right now, but it's not as though the Asian carriers are utilizing their slots right now or likely for the next Year+. Copa has decent time slots at JFK and would be an obvious candidate to move to EWR for the right price.
If United gets free premium time slots at JFK by whining to the FAA, good for them. But United isn't really "committed to JFK" unless they're willing to gradually grow their JFK slot portfolio over time like most other airlines have done via acquisition or natural organic growth, just like United did before they gradually sold off their JFK business.