JetBlue announced today that they will start flying Boston and New York JFK – London. That came as a surprise to absolutely no one because they’ve talked about it seemingly in perpetuity.
Now that they’ve announced it what do we know?
- They’re going to start flying in 2-3 years
- With indeterminate frequency
- To an airport to be named later
- Offering an as yet to be determined product
Despite the hype, this isn’t something to get excited over. This is vaporware.
We know there will be “multiple daily flights” to start some time “in 2021” offering “a reimagined version” of their business class product which will fly to a London airport whose choice they’re still “evaluating.”
My guess of course is that they’ll fly to London Gatwick.
- Heathrow slots are expensive
- They won’t succeed in getting regulators to give them slots the way they managed to secure at New York JFK upon airline launch
- Luton and Stansted are non-starters
- The A321LR won’t work in and out of London City
With London as a terminating point for passengers, Gatwick will work fine. And it could even allow them to experiment interlining with a European low cost carrier. Most of their traffic will originate in the US and they have connecting capability in Boston and New York.
Their path suggests eventually serving additional European destinations, and have announced they’re converting 13 Airbus A321 orders to the ‘LR’ or long range variant for the single aisle aircraft.
The truth is, though, that with this announcement we learned very little we did not already know.
What JetBlue Transatlantic Will Mean for Customers
JetBlue is likely to have a coach product that is ever so marginally better than competitors and a business class product that is competitive, but not industry leading. They are likely to sell their business product, at least initially, below what incumbent carriers charge.
A competitive product at a good price will be good news for everyone, though at the moment it remains in the realm of speculation – and reasonably far into the future.
How Could JetBlue Make London Game Changing?
Could they actually make this super interesting? Sure. Instead of flying Airbus A321LRs, they could take Airbus A220s (formerly the Bombardier C-Series) they have on order and fly those in a premium configuration in and out of London City airport.
They could do it with a top notch product and sufficient frequency to be attractive to business travelers flying between financial centers.
British Airways runs New York JFK – London City airport less than once daily with an Airbus A318. Unfortunately the plane isn’t able to make it back the other direction.
- Westbound is a long trip, especially with headwinds in winter
- The short London City airport won’t let the aircraft take off with sufficient fuel for the trip
Their solution is to make a refueling stop in Shannon, Ireland. Most of the time they’ve been able to leverage this for immigration preclearance, getting passengers cleared into the U.S. so there are no formalities on arrival at New York JFK.
C-Series A220 may theoretically work in and out of London City airport though the configuration of the aircraft may matter. The convenience of showing up minutes before departure from a small airport close to London financial institutions could give an airline a leg up if they could make the flight work operationally. Even a single after work flight in each direction, with a better product than BA offers and without the required fuel stop in Ireland could be a big winner.