An inevitable consequence of a demand shock to aviation like COVID-19 is that airlines put expansion plans and new projects on hold.
Qantas has postponed, albeit not indefinitely, plans to order aircraft capable of flying from London to the East Coast of Australia non-stop. Almost all airlines envisage being substantially smaller over the next two years.
Last year, JetBlue confirmed it plans to launch transatlantic flights from London to Boston and New York JFK from 2021. These will be operated with Airbus A321 long range aircraft.
Speaking to CNN’s “Quest Means Business” on Thursday 28 May 2020, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes, with the aid of a not so subtle hint behind him, confirmed the airline still plans to launch flights from London in 2021, albeit more later in the year.
JetBlue maintains its promise to lower air fares on transatlantic routes. However, the market may pre-empt this. It is likely that all airlines will face lower yields as the return of business travel is likely to lag the lifting of travel restrictions and large scale events remain cancelled.
In terms of which London airport JetBlue could operate from, it will have little difficulty securing slots at Gatwick with Virgin Atlantic having temporarily withdrawn from the airport and Norwegian scaling back.
The Competition & Markets Authority is currently consulting on whether American Airlines and BA should be required to make slots to Boston and other US airports available to competitors at London Heathrow. However, this would only secure a slot for one return flight a day to Boston, and none to New York JFK.
The 12 months that have passed since JetBlue’s first official announcement have proven that a year is a very long time in aviation and the next 12 months are unlikely to be any different.