JetBlue Sets London, Finally
It only took two years, a new aircraft, and a global pandemic to get JetBlue Airways into London Heathrow. Flights between its New York JFK base and Heathrow begin on August 11, followed by a second flight between JFK and London Gatwick on September 29. A planned flight between Boston Logan and London is postponed until next spring.
But JetBlue does not have an easy path ahead of it. Globally, international travel was down nearly 68 percent in March compared to the same month in 2019, according to the latest IATA data.
And between the U.S. and UK specifically, passenger traffic was down a dramatic 96 percent in November 2020 compared to a year earlier, the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics latest data shows.
While some travel across the North Atlantic will rebound this summer, most of that will be concentrated in countries that have already reopened — specifically Croatia, Greece and Iceland. The UK has yet to ease entry restrictions for U.S. travelers, with the country’s exclusion from its first so-called green list called “disappointing” by Cowen airline analyst Helane Becker in a recent report. Many in the industry forecast 2021 as another “lost summer” of travel between the EU and U.S. as was last year.
JetBlue leadership appears unfazed with the challenges ahead. The aim is to disrupt premium transatlantic travel as the airline did on U.S. transcontinental routes. For a round-trip between New York and London departing August 11 and returning a week later, seats in JetBlue’s posh Mint business class are about $500 cheaper than any of its competitors at $1,979 each, a search on Google Flights shows. However, prior to the crisis business class fares in the market were often several times JetBlue’s introductory offering.
“When we take our product, when we take our customer base already that is very keen for us to do this, and we take low fares — we think that’s a winning combination,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said on London in March. “We think that’s going to ramp up very quickly.”
The carrier goes up against a whose-who of global airline leaders between New York and London: American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic all fly the route.
JetBlue will fly its all-new Airbus A321LR aircraft on its new flights to London. The jets are outfitted with 24 Mint seats and 117 economy seats, the latter including 24 with extra legroom. Flights will operate from Terminal 2 at Heathrow, and the North Terminal at Gatwick.
London is only the beginning of JetBlue’s European ambitions. With 26 long-range Airbus jets on order, the carrier will be able to expand to more destinations throughout Europe in the coming years. Of course, that assumes that transatlantic travel will rebound — though that is widely viewed as more a matter of when and not if.
- It only took nine-extra months and a global pandemic for Alaska Airlines to make its way to Cincinnati, Ohio. The carrier began its delayed new route between Seattle and Cincinnati last week. The addition boosts the number of cities Alaska serves nonstop from Seattle to 95.
- Lufthansa‘s latest long-haul budget brand Eurowings Discover is already laying out plans for summer 2022 when many expect much long-haul international travel to return in earnest. The carrier will connect Frankfurt and Fort Myers, and Munich and Las Vegas from next March; Frankfurt and Salt Lake City from June 2022; and Frankfurt and Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, from July 2022. In addition, Discover will take over flights to Cancun, Panama City, Panama, and Punta Cana from other Lufthansa subsidiaries next summer. Discover flies Airbus A330s.
- Citing costs, Frontier Airlines will end service to Los Angeles International Airport in September. The discounter is shifting flights to nearby Burbank and Ontario airports in July where costs are lower. Frontier also serves the Orange County airport in Southern California.
- KLM plans more sun runs this summer with four new destinations in southern Europe. From June, the carrier will connect Belgrade, Dubrovnik, Mallorca and Verona to its Amsterdam Schiphol hub. KLM will serve 96 destinations this summer, up from 92 in 2019.
- Undeterred by further delays to its first Boeing 737 Max deliveries, Ryanair continues to add new routes this summer. The budget carrier will connect Teesside and Faro twice-weekly from June, and Manchester and Verona twice weekly from July. Both routes end in October.
- United continues its monthly schedule step ups with plans to fly 80 percent of 2019 domestic capacity in July, compared to 67 percent in June. Much of the addition includes adding back flight banks at its Chicago O’Hare and Washington Dulles hubs. One new route joining the mix: Washington-Milwaukee with flights beginning July 1.
- Continuing to ramp up its schedules as domestic travel rebounds, Virgin Australia will add five new routes during the southern winter. Perth to Cairns, and Sydney to Darwin and Townsville begin in July; and Adelaide to Cairns, and Melbourne to Townsville in August.
- Viva Aerobus will add Austin to its map in June, becoming the latest airline to expand in the booming Texas capital. The Mexican discounter will connect Austin to Monterrey from June 19, and to Mexico City the next day. Both routes will operate twice weekly.