JetBlue has opened a new chapter in its 21-year-old history as it operated its first transatlantic service on August 11/12 from New York JFK to London Heathrow and back. The much anticipated and debated debut in Europe should ‘shake up the transatlantic market’, JetBlue says. And there is more to come. JetBlue starts new chapter with London arrival.
After operating a number of familiarization flights in July that not always went smoothly, today’s flight 007 departed JFK at 10.07 pm local time and arrived at Heathrow at 9.31 am local time, 39 minutes ahead of schedule. The return flight 020 departed Terminal 2 at 2.27 pm again. Only for vaccinated US citizens, as the US is still closed for EU travelers.
While it has been highly successful as a US domestic low-cost airline with a network that spans 25 countries in the Americas, it always looked in envy at how the big US carriers American, Delta, and United were earning big money on transatlantic routes. As one of the most competitive routes, there have been other airlines that have successfully claimed a piece of the cake while other attempts failed or only lasted until the Covid-crisis. See Norwegian’s history.
Plans announced in April 2019
JetBlue announced its transatlantic intentions in April 2019, targeting first operations from New York and Boston around June 2021. Speaking to Airinsight at the September 2019 World Aviation Festival, Chief Operating Officer Joanna Geraghty said the airline hadn’t confirmed the launch date nor the airport it would operate to. It could be even more than one, with Heathrow the preferred option but JetBlue also having a look at Stansted, Gatwick, and Luton.
The pandemic delayed the launch, of course, but on May 19, the airline was ready to confirm it would commence the first service on August 11 to Heathrow and on September 29 to Gatwick. Boston to London will follow in the summer of 2022.
The announcement came some three weeks after JetBlue took delivery of its first Airbus A321LR, of which it will take thirteen. It’s the range of this aircraft that allows it to cross the Atlantic anyway and enables the carrier to stick to its two-model policy of the A320/A320neo-family and A220. From 2025, thirteen A321XLRs will join the airline and offer it even more options to expand its long-haul network.
Low fares and award-winning product
JetBlue intends to change the competition on the transatlantic. Thanks to the A321LR’s low costs per seat mile, the carrier can offer low fares also on this route while at the same time offering a high-class (“our award-wining”) product: the 114 Mint seats and 24 Mint Premium 24 suites. It’s with the Mint product and everything that goes by with it like wifi and catering that JetBlue thinks it will stand out from the competition, although they offer many more seats on wide-bodies at much higher frequencies that have their effect on the economics of transatlantic travel.
Until JetBlue will step up frequencies, it will be a niche player on the route in and out of London. It will have to wait until the transatlantic will fully reopen from Europe, something the Biden Administration is said to work on. Only then it will become clear how the traveling public rates the JetBlue product. As it awaits the reopening, JetBlue has cut back some capacity for September but plans to operate a full schedule in October and November. As said, Gatwick is to follow by the end of September.
So JetBlue starts a new chapter with the London arrival. The book certainly will get a few more paragraphs. With a fleet of 26 A321LRs and A321XLRs available in a few years from now, expect JetBlue to grow the transatlantic network. Joanna Geraghty said in September 2019 that with the XLRs in the fleet, her airline will be seriously looking at options in Paris, Frankfurt, or Amsterdam.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.