JetBlue announced on Wednesday something it had teased about for several years – transatlantic service.
The airline plans to start serving London (not sure about the airport used) in 2021 from both New York and Boston using Airbus A321LR aircraft.
Here’s the announcement from JetBlue:
JetBlue (NASDAQ: JBLU), New York’s Hometown Airline® and the largest airline in Boston, today announced it intends to launch multiple daily flights from both cities to London in 2021 (a) – the carrier’s first European destination. The new routes, which will be served by Airbus A321LR single-aisle aircraft with a reimagined version of Mint, will mark the first-ever transatlantic service offered by the award-winning airline. JetBlue is evaluating which London airports it will serve.
“Twenty years ago, our founders had a simple formula for choosing a new market – it had to be overpriced, underserved, or both,” said Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer, JetBlue. “London is the largest metro area JetBlue doesn’t yet serve from both Boston and New York, and we could not be more thrilled to be changing that in the years ahead. The fares being charged today by airlines on these routes, specifically on the premium end, are enough to make you blush.”
Known in the U.S. for having the most legroom in coach, live television at every seat, free Fly-Fi broadband internet, complimentary snacks and soft drinks, and great customer service, JetBlue’s entrance into the transatlantic market will introduce a new era of customer-focused, low-fare travel for both leisure and business travelers. The airline’s Mint premium experience, which disrupted transcontinental travel in the U.S. with accessible fares and a thoughtful reinvention of the business class cabin, promises to offer transatlantic customers a fresh choice.
Growth into Europe is the next natural step in JetBlue’s focus city expansion strategy, with London being the largest destination not served by JetBlue from both New York and Boston. The new service will strengthen JetBlue’s relevance in its two largest focus cities while also answering calls from loyal business and leisure customers who have, until now, been forced to fly other carriers to and from London.
The highly anticipated announcement, which comes after an extensive internal review, was made today in New York at a crewmember event at John F. Kennedy International Airport. More than 1,300 crewmembers filled the airline’s hangar to hear CEO Robin Hayes and President & COO Joanna Geraghty outline the historic move for the 19-year old airline. Hayes is set to deliver the keynote address tomorrow at The Aviation Club of the U.K. in London in which he will discuss today’s announcement, as well as address competition concerns and airport access challenges in Europe.
Fresh Competition in European Flying Featuring Transatlantic Mint
“The big airlines will tell you that competition has never been more robust, but the smaller airlines have never found it harder to get access,” said Geraghty. “It’s time for regulators here in the U.S. and across Europe to create conditions where smaller carriers and new entrants can thrive, instead of letting the giant airlines get even bigger through joint ventures. Given a chance to compete, JetBlue can have a tremendous effect on lowering fares and stimulating traffic.”
Travelers flying across the North Atlantic between the northeast U.S. and London have long faced sky-high fares – particularly in premium cabins – or mediocre service in a market effectively controlled by legacy carriers and their massive joint ventures. Alternatively, a handful of low-cost carriers have attempted to enter with a no-frills, bare-bones approach to flying offering little in the way of complimentary amenities or the kind of service that JetBlue has become famous for in the Americas. Particularly in Europe, JetBlue will raise the bar on what travelers can expect from a low-cost carrier.
“It’s great news that JetBlue is expanding into London and we will be delighted to welcome leisure and business visitors from Boston and New York with these new routes,” said Laura Citron, CEO, London & Partners. “North America is already London’s largest overseas market but is growing significantly year on year, so extra connectivity and capacity to allow even more people to discover our city is very exciting news. We know that Americans visit London for its exciting history and creativity, from Shakespeare to the birth of punk and the catwalks of today. This creative energy and cultural vibrancy can be felt in every aspect of London life and we look forward to sharing it with more global visitors.”
JetBlue – which has been awarded again and again over the years for its commitment to onboard comfort, complimentary amenities and customer service – will bring an all-new choice to travelers with affordable fares combined with an onboard product and level of service that can’t be matched.
JetBlue is developing a reimagined, transatlantic version of its premium Mint product which will feature more lie-flat seats than currently offered on the airline’s existing A321 aircraft. Transatlantic Mint product features and design elements, combined with JetBlue’s specially trained Mint inflight crewmembers, will create an intimate and exclusive travel experience. And like its transcontinental Mint business model, JetBlue will offer the elevated flying experience for a fraction of what other airlines are charging today for premium seats.
“The success Mint has had on driving down the exorbitant airfares that our competitors were charging, stimulating new demand, and forcing the entrenched carriers to up their game, is a big reason we believe London is the next natural market for JetBlue to be successful and make a positive impact on consumers,” said Geraghty.
JetBlue is also creating a new long-haul version of its much-loved core experience. The airline’s customers in the Americas have long enjoyed spacious and comfortable seating, live television, high-speed Fly-Fi broadband internet, friendly service, and much more. JetBlue’s transatlantic core offering will be designed for customers who already know and love the JetBlue experience as the airline remains committed to being an industry leader in comfort and service.
JetBlue Converts Orders to A321LR
The A321LR will allow JetBlue to tap into new long-haul markets that were not previously accessible with its current single-aisle aircraft. JetBlue will initially convert 13 aircraft in its existing A321 order book to the LR version with the ability to convert more.
“JetBlue has pioneered new travel possibilities for their customers for years,” said Christian Scherer, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer. “All of us at Airbus are honored to provide the strategic aircraft platform to enable this next chapter in the story of our partners at JetBlue.”
This conversion does not impact JetBlue’s external financial commitments or represent incremental capital expenditures as the current order book remains the same. Furthermore, JetBlue remains committed to delivering earnings per share between $2.50 and $3.00 by 2020. This update to the fleet plan is part of JetBlue’s vision to continue improving its earnings per share beyond 2020.
Proven Track Record for International Flying
Today, JetBlue serves nearly two dozen countries. The airline has been flying internationally for nearly 15 years with a significant portion of its operations in the Caribbean and Latin America with flights reaching as far south as Ecuador and Peru. Unique to European expansion plans, JetBlue has created an internal team to begin the certification process for ETOPS, which permits extended operations for two engine aircraft over water.
Additional details about specific schedules, when seats will go on sale, as well as more information about transatlantic Mint, Core and much more will be announced in the coming months.
The transatlantic market is tough and all the alliances (Star Alliance, Oneworld and SkyTeam), as JetBlue correctly points out on their release, have joint ventures that allows co-ordinating fares and services. Some of these JVs even pool revenues and expenses.
It is certainly interesting to see what London area airport JetBlue is going to use and get access to. London Heathrow is at capacity and airlines pay serious amount of money for valuable slots.