*****UPDATE: Mystery continues to surround Jetblue’s plans for Europe. A Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson has now informed Business Traveller that “The airline [Jetblue] would need to apply for a foreign carrier’s permit to operate flights to the UK. At present we have not received an application.”*****
US carrier Jetblue is reported to be making London its first European destination. If everything proceeds according to plan flights could start later this year.
In The Independent Jetblue’s CEO Robin Hayes is quoted as saying, “What Jetblue has always done since we started nearly 20 years ago is bring low fares with a better service and we’d love to bring that to Europe.”
Originally it was thought Jetblue would have chosen Amsterdam for its European debut. But London now appears to be the favourite.
Perhaps one reason is that Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport has now become congested, with slots at certain times almost impossible to obtain.
Indeed as we have reported the European Commission instructed Dutch airline KLM to hand over one of its Amsterdam-New York slots to rival carrier Norwegian in the interests of improving competition.
Jetblue would operate the A321LR neo which is one of the new generation of long-haul narrow-body aircraft.
Flights would operate to London from New York JFK and Boston, or possibly both.
It’s possible Jetblue’s flights will be configured only for business class.
Given its cost structure Jetblue could easily undercut the major carriers when in comes to business class pricing.
Says Hayes, “Premium fares [on transatlantic routes from London] are very, very high.
“Airlines have continued to increase them believing that they’re not really elastic at that price level.” (It means that higher business class prices may not necessarily lead to a reduction in demand.)
But which London airport would Jetblue use ?
Hayes believes the UK authorities ought to provide more slots at Heathrow to allow more competition in the same way that Schiphol/KLM have done.
But not only are Heathrow slots incredibly valuable (Oman Air paid a record price of US$75 million for an early morning slot), there is so much more competition between London and New York than there is between Amsterdam and New York.
Chances are Jetblue will have to be content with Luton, Stansted or Gatwick.
However all the evidence shows that business travellers prefer Heathrow over any other London airport… even if fares are costlier.
Remember that other low-cost business class carriers tried to fly to New York from Luton and Stansted but they all failed.
Julianna Bryan, manager of corporate communications at the airline, told Business Traveller’s sister publication Buying Business Travel: “We plan to announce our decision on the Long Range version of the A321 in 2019.
“The transatlantic market – especially in the premium category – suffers from the same lack of competition and high fares that transcon routes in the US saw before Jetblue introduced Mint.
“Potential routes to Europe could provide us an opportunity to grow our focus cities of Boston and New York as we consider the best use of our aircraft from a margin perspective in those cities.”
Further developments are awaited with interest.