On Friday, February 19th, United Airlines announced it would become the latest carrier to, at some point, launch flights between Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and London Heathrow Airport (LHR). United will be turning up the heat on this market, but that is not the last of the route increasing in competitiveness as JetBlue prepares to enter the foray. Here’s a look at how this market became so much hotter.
Heading into 2020
Heading into 2020, three carriers were flying nonstop between Boston and London. From one joint venture, there was Delta and Virgin Atlantic. British Airways, which holds its own incredibly well across the board, also operated flights between the two cities.
In September of 2019, American Airlines announced that it would be launching a nonstop service between Boston and London-Heathrow in 2020, boosting the route with another daily frequency.
JetBlue had already announced it planned to launch multiple daily flights from Boston to London. However, the carrier did not provide a lot of information about its plans beyond using an Airbus A321LR with a refreshed Mint product.
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The crisis threw a wrench in the plans
The pandemic threw a wrench in the plans of all major carriers. Most airlines immediately reduced or suspended outright flights between the two cities. These days, only Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are flying between the two cities.
American delayed flights between London and Boston, and JetBlue took a step back and tried to figure out its next move. Neither airline was willing to back down from the route.
JetBlue grows during the crisis
JetBlue has decided to grow during the crisis, and one of its top targets for an airport is Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). Newark was a natural extension of JetBlue’s New York-area operations.
Newark is a massive hub for United Airlines. It is the true foothold that the carrier has in the New York area and serves as a connecting hub for flights to Europe, Israel, India, and more.
JetBlue started to encroach on United’s leisure routes out of Newark, including down to the Caribbean, which caused an issue for United since those routes were some of the only ones where there were enough people to fill up planes.
Airlines rarely tend to take encroachments on hubs lightly. The reason is that hubs are some of the most profitable parts of an airline’s network.
United adds Boston to London route
Add is a little bit of a stretch. United has announced that it plans on starting up new nonstop flights between Boston and London Heathrow, but it has not yet given a firm date, which may sound familiar.
JetBlue also plans to fly to London. While JetBlue has some slots it has not finalized the plans to launch flights. The carrier is targeting a summer, third-quarter launch of flights in 2021.
United Airlines has clearly indicated this is likely a retaliatory move from JetBlue’s expansion in New York. The aircraft scheduling appears to pull one of the Boeing 767-300ERs operating flights from other United hubs to London for the Boston schedule instead of basing an aircraft at Boston. United may also end up launching Boston to Heathrow flights right when JetBlue does and rub salt in the wound of JetBlue if the latter cannot get slots in Heathrow.
JetBlue’s Boston to London flights are one of the most hotly-awaited flights in 2021– especially now that the carrier has revealed a stunning new Mint product that could put up competition against United’s Polaris-heavy Boeing 767-300ERs.
Where will things stand this summer?
This summer, assuming all goes well and United and JetBlue both launch their services, there will be up to ten daily flights between Boston and London. This includes three flights on British Airways, two on Virgin Atlantic, and one each on Delta and American Airlines.
Add United’s daily flight brings it to eight, and JetBlue’s two gets it to ten. Combined, this is a lot of capacity planned between Boston and London, making it one of the busiest US to UK corridors after New York to London.
Boston to London is a high-profile route, and airlines typically match fares on this route, which means a lot of competition across the pond. Once JetBlue and United hop in, assuming United does end up launching flights, this market could be oversaturated and filled with low fares. This is especially true if demand does not materialize the way airlines hope it will this summer.
What do you make of the Boston-London corridor? Do you think United and JetBlue should enter the market? Let us know in the comments!