How the Big Apple’s International Traffic Recovery is Panning Out

Dion Zumbrink


June 26, 2024

800px JetBlue Airways Airbus A321 271NX N2016J at JFK Airport

JetBlue has seen the biggest hike in share since the pandemic.

© Wikimedia Commons

New York’s airport system—with three major airports serving their distinctive niches—recovered last year to just under the 2019 level. From an international perspective, this was mostly driven by Newark (EWR) which surpassed its pre-pandemic numbers by 1.7%.

Changes in the market, particularly route development are helping the rebound. Looking at the airline landscape, it appears that EWR has benefited from the international growth of United and some European airlines that are expanding at the airport; some in addition to their operations at the much larger John F. Kennedy (JFK).

The hub on Long Island is the main international gateway to New York City (see chart below) and to the United States.

mod DZ nyc intl pax by airport

© Dion Zumbrink

While JFK benefited from the international expansion of JetBlue and American, it also had to absorb the loss of Norwegian, which had more than an 8% share of the JFK international market at its peak. The airport also handled a majority of Asian flights pre-pandemic, a market which has been slower to recover.

As JFK is heavily slot-constrained, any that have opened up have been pounced on by other airlines. JetBlue and American Airlines have been among the main beneficiaries (see chart below), but others include Air India, Qatar Airways, and Etihad. Not shown in the chart below, but also remarkable, is the growth of European mid-sized hub airlines such as Austrian, TAP Air Portugal, and Aer Lingus.

mod DZ nyc intl pax

© Dion Zumbrink

In addition, Norse, the successor of Norwegian has made an entry at JFK. With some half a million passengers in 2023, Norsehas helped to make up a decent share of the loss of Norwegian.

Meanwhile, traditional transatlantic carriers such as British Airways and Air France appear stable and have focused more on their capacity at EWR instead of JFK, as has Turkish Airlines.

Network Developments

In the 12 months to April 2024, the market was just 1% shy of the same period in 2019. The main positive changes have come from the Caribbean, as well as Central and South American destinations. Both regions have shown around 15% growth. This balances the capacity lost from transpacific operations due to the slow recovery of Asian markets.

mod DZ nyc intl pax by region

© Dion Zumbrink

The transatlantic market, traditionally the largest international market from NYC, is nearly at the same level as pre-pandemic. Some expansion is seen from United and Delta, whereas European carriers remain flat.

The Caribbean market has been largely stimulated by JetBlue with growth in destinations such as the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Aruba, and the Bahamas. To a lesser extent, American and United have added capacity to the Dominican Republic.

Overall, the New York international market made a strong recovery in 2023. It is ahead of the U.S. total (-3% versus 2019), and worldwide international air traffic. Some drastic changes have occurred with leisure destinations in the Caribbean taking over from Asian traffic, with a rise in smaller European airlines, as well as the major American carriers.

The loss of airlines during the pandemic has been made up by a range of others from Europe and the U.S. This shows the resilience of the market and supports the enormous development projects already delivered, and ongoing, at all airports in the NYC area.