JetBlue is to launch its first transatlantic routes from London to Boston and New York JFK from 2021.
Flights will be operated with Airbus A321 Long Range aircraft. JetBlue has converted 13 of its existing orders for Airbus A321 aircraft to the long range version.
It will feature an updated version of JetBlue’s signature “Mint” premium cabin which operates on select transcontinental routes in the US. JetBlue also promises to undercut existing premium transatlantic fares.
There is a lot JetBlue has not said in today’s announcement.
JetBlue has not specified which London airport it will fly from. It is highly likely that JetBlue will pursue hard access to Heathrow. It has been explicitly lobbying for slots at Heathrow to be made available as a condition of Air France-KLM, Delta and Virgin Atlantic combining their transatlantic joint-ventures. The American Airlines and British Airways transatlantic joint-venture is also under review by the Competitions & Markets Authority pending its renewal. From JetBlue’s press statements it is clearly targeting the major transatlantic joint-ventures and will be lobbying against these on both sides of the atlantic.
JetBlue has also not given any indications of potential schedules and frequencies. Though a fleet of 13 aircraft for transatlantic operations, some of which will ultimately operate from other European cities, should allow for a significant schedule.
Any new entrant should be welcomed. JetBlue has a lot going its favour. It haas a strong brand with a significant presence in Boston and New York. However, with a relatively small transatlantic operation and a small dedicated fleet, it will need to have sufficient contingency measures in place in the event of operational issues. Any short notice delays, cancellations and aircraft substitutions will result in goodwill being lost.
JetBlue’s announcement has been trailed long in advance and has not gone unnoticed by its competitors. Delta and Virgin Atlantic have already announced plans to fly from Gatwick to Boston and New York JFK in 2020. Should JetBlue ultimately choose to fly from Gatwick, it would be surprising if American Airlines and BA (which already flies from Gatwick to New York JFK) don’t make a similar competitive response.