JetBlue Eyes 2021 Launch For London Narrowbody Flights

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JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes confirmed yesterday that the carrier is still on track for its 2021 transatlantic single-aisle long-haul launch. Initially intended for the beginning of next year, with the arrival of JetBlue’s new A321LR aircraft, the airline is pushing its routes from Boston Logan and New York JFK to an unconfirmed London airport until summer.

JetBlue, Aruba, COVID-19 Tests
JetBlue’s CEO confirmed yesterday that the airline would be launching routes from Boston and New York to a London airport by Q3 2021. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | JFKJets.com

The latest information on JetBlue’s transatlantic plans was that they were still on for next year. However, with the still-unfolding pandemic and ensuing travel restrictions, any plans when it comes to aviation are tentative at best.

Meanwhile, when interviewed yesterday by John Strickland at this year’s virtual version of the World Travel Market Conference, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes confirmed that the airline would indeed launch its routes to London in 2021.

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Pent-up demand in time for launch

While it may be a little later in the year than initially intended, JetBlue will begin flying from Boston and New York to London sometime before the end of next summer. The airline’s CEO said that by then, he expects there to be a tremendous pent-up demand for travel.

A new era of disruption

In a new era of single-aisle travel and potential long-term disruption to the transatlantic market, JetBlue will be operating the new routes with Airbus A321LR and A321XLR aircraft. Both narrowbody types will offer unbeatable fuel efficiency and will allow JetBlue to offer very attractive pricing for both their Mint and economy class products.

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There have been rumors of a brand-new business class product for the routes. Fans of the Mint product will already be well aware of the superb value these offer, but rumors of newly registered trademarks in February this year – ‘Mint Suite’ and ‘Mint Studio’ – could suggest something even better is being planned.

JetBlue disrupted the US market with its Mint product. Will it do the same with the transatlantic market? Photo: Jet Blue

The airline already confirmed in September last year that the Mint cabin would likely be larger than what is seen in the US right now. The airline told Simple Flying at the time,

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“[The A321LR] will include more than the 16 seats currently configured on our existing A321s with Mint with personalized service from hospitality-trained JetBlue crewmembers.”

Which London airport?

While the decision on which London airport would receive the “hybrid” carrier’s business may previously have depended on bagging a hard-to-come-by airport slot, that may have changed with the times.

Some carriers, such as Norwegian, may have exited the UK transatlantic market come the summer season, leaving coveted prime slots open.

A321XLR
JetBlue has 13 A321neoLR and 13 A321neoXLR on order. Photo: Airbus

New livery for new routes

The new additions to JetBlue’s fleet have received an upgraded livery. The first tail of its kind was recently painted at Airbus’ facilities in Hamburg, Germany. JetBlue has reached agreements with Airbus on deferral of deliveries. However, we can assume that at least some of the new longer-range A321neos, originally scheduled for this year, are still on track to arrive before summer.

The main difference with the longer-range A321neos is mostly in the expanded fuel tank. Mr Hayes also expressed in the interview that, should the transatlantic plans prove unsuccessful, the airline would simply replace the fuel tanks and deploy the jets on other routes.

JetBlue plane
Should the transatlantic mission fail, JetBlue’s CEO says, the airline will simply use the planes on other routes. Photo: Getty Images

Will Europe be ready?

Even if the planes are delivered sooner, while the airline itself may be ready, the US and Europe thus far certainly are not. And, barring the arrival of a widely available and distributed vaccine, with second waves of infections surging on both sides of the Atlantic, travel restrictions show no signs of easing up soon.

Do you think JetBlue’s CEO is correct in his assessment that leisure travel will rebound by the end of next year? Which London airport will JetBlue choose? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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