Over the years, JetBlue executives have been discussing the opening of flights to London. Now, things finally happened. Last week, JetBlue began selling air tickets on a new route from Kennedy Airport in New York to the two largest airports in London.
It will take time to establish a successful transatlantic franchise. Nonetheless, the launch of these new routes represents an important step towards taking advantage of the huge opportunities for profitable long-term growth in Europe.
JetBlue Finalized Its Original London Plan
After JetBlue officially announced that it will enter the London market, the biggest question is which airport (or airport) it will serve there. Before the pandemic, slot restrictions made it difficult for new entrants such as JetBlue to serve the city’s two main international gateways, Heathrow and Gatwick.
When the pandemic disrupted air travel demand (especially long-distance flights), JetBlue’s problem was over. Earlier this year, the slot coordinator at London Airport awarded slots for Heathrow and Gatwick airports to popular low-cost airlines.
On Wednesday, JetBlue announced that it will start daily service between JFK and Heathrow Airport on August 11. It will add daily flights between JFK and Gatwick on September 29. It will use Airbus A321LR aircraft to operate the two routes, the aircraft will be equipped with 141 seats, including 24 private “suites” in the premium mint cabin. Even coach customers will benefit from the facilities included in the fare including meals, alcoholic beverages, self-service snack bars and Wi-Fi.
The mint cabin on JetBlue’s Airbus A321LR jet includes seats that fold into a flatbed.
JetBlue hopes to create a sensation with a lower entry fee. It is offering two-way flights starting at US$599 for US customers, while it is offering lower starting prices for UK customers. Even the mint hut starts at less than $2,000.
More Growth in 2022 and Beyond
Two years ago, when JetBlue converted 13 of its new A321 orders to A321LR, it planned to deliver all 13 in 2021. This will enable it to quickly establish an important footprint in London.
However, JetBlue subsequently delayed the delivery of many aircraft to reduce recent capital expenditures and better match its growth with expected demand. Currently, JetBlue expects to deliver only three A321 LR aircraft this year, and three more in 2022. Therefore, JetBlue postponed the launch of the Boston-London flight until next summer. Even so, it will still have enough planes to and from London four or five times a day. This shows that JetBlue’s London business will not be fully deployed until at least 2023.
As airlines holding vacant seats at Heathrow Airport resume their schedules in the next year or two, JetBlue will be forced to leave this ideal airport unless it can secure a permanent vacancy.