United Airlines announced new service from Houston Bush Intercontinental and Chicago O’Hare to beleaguered Atlantic City, New Jersey this week in a deal that brought NJ Governor Chris Christie and United CEO Jeff Smisek together for a special ceremony on Thursday. But if you think this announcement is about service to Atlantic City, think again.
From Chicago, United’s flight to Atlantic City will depart at 8:10 a.m. daily, arriving at 11:17 a.m. The return flight will depart Atlantic City at 11:52 a.m. and arrive in Chicago at 1:10 p.m.
From Houston, United’s flight to Atlantic City will depart at 7 p.m. daily, arriving at 11:20 p.m. The return flight will depart Atlantic City at 6 a.m. and arrive in Houston at 8:49 a.m.
United Express carrier ExpressJet will operate the Atlantic City flights with 50-seat Embraer ERJ-145 aircraft.
When President John F. Kennedy “stared down” Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in 1962, leading to the Soviet withdrawal of missiles from Cuba and an end the Cuban Missile Crisis, what oft went unreported was the secret U.S. concession to withdraw U.S. missiles from Italy and Turkey. We have an analogous situation behind the new route announcement, even if Christie and Smisek will not admit it: PATH rail service to Newark Liberty International from Lower Manhattan. From the Wall Street Journal:
Representatives of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have dangled a mass transit expansion project in front of the largest airline at Newark Liberty International Airport, people familiar with the matter said, but they want something in exchange: a pledge to begin serving the much smaller airport 100 miles away in Atlantic City.
In talks with United Airlines, the Christie representatives have suggested that they would direct the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to begin a long-contemplated extension of the PATH train to Newark’s airport rail station, providing a long-desired direct rail link with Lower Manhattan, these people said.
In exchange, these people say Mr. Christie, via Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, has asked United to provide service to a slate of cities from Atlantic City—a small airport with a spotty track record of supporting commercial service. United is the dominant airline at the Newark airport, carrying about 70% of the passengers…
Making it easier to get to Newark Airport could lead to an upsurge in revenue for United, even if it loses a bit of money on these new “political” routes. Flights are already running full out of Newark, but if more people are chasing those same seats, fares will trend higher. Right now getting to/from EWR from Lower Manhattan is a pain, requiring the use of NJ Transit, Amtrak, bus, or a very expensive cab ride. This project will help United better compete with Delta and American at JFK if completed.
A shrewd move for both leaders…