As expected, JetBlue announced new service to London yesterday from Boston and New York, But there are still many unknowns including a London-sized elephant in the room.
JetBlue “intends to launch multiple daily flights from both cities to London in 2021 – the carrier’s first European destination.” To do so, it will convert an existing order of A321 for 13 A321LR (long range) aircraft.
Gary Leff is not impressed, noting:
- JetBlue will start flying in 2-3 years
- With indeterminate frequency
- To an airport to be named later
- Offering an as yet to be determined product
And I share his disappointment in lack of specifics. But I’m still quite excited JetBlue finally made it official (as anti-climatic as the announcement was). I am most impressed that JetBlue is promising to put downward pressure on premium prices.
Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s COO, stated:
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.
This is incredible news for consumers. Incredible…even if we have to wait till 2021. JetBlue did exactly the same thing in terms of premium transcon fares when it first introduced its MINT product. I expect it to do the same thing here.
The London Question
I’m not concerned about the new seat or how many times per day JetBlue will serve London. But I am concerned about which airport. Gatwick is most likely and allows for a link-up with EasyJet at a future time to extend travel beyond London. Geraghty told employees JetBlue is also considering Dublin, Amsterdam, and Paris as well. EasyJet may prove an attractive partner, though now the focus will be on traffic originating in the USA.
But even with that focus on the USA, there are other choices to consider. London Stansted, thanks to Ryanair, has a bad reputation (at least this on this side of the pond). It’s seen as “low-cost” and inconvenient. And while the low-cost stigma is certainly real, it is hardly inconvenient for many travelers starting or ending in London. In fact, it is easier to reach Stansted by train than either Gatwick or Heathrow. I wouldn’t rule it out.
I said Gatwick is most likely in terms of JetBlue’s ability to secure slots, but I also would not count out Heathrow just yet. I have no idea where JetBlue would get its slots from, but it is a big enough airport that JetBlue might find a willing buyer at the right price, just as SAS sold slots a couple years ago (even back then, I was hoping it was JetBlue).
And then there’s London City, a small but convenient airport in the center of London. The A321LR is too big for that airport, which is a shame. Imagine JetBlue competing with BA once-daily Airbus A318 London City service…that would create an even more compelling product.
On the one hand, I don’t think JetBlue can make a wrong choice in London. But on the other hand, there are distinct pros and cons to each airport choice, even Heathrow. The challenge is in choosing the airport that will attract customers willing to pay a premium. That remains an open question.