Is JetBlue’s Boston Hub Under Threat?

Within the past year, JetBlue’s outlook in its important hub city of Boston has worsened significantly. Two of the airline’s biggest competitors, American Airlines and Delta, have confirmed they will be expanding their presence at the airport. But how will JetBlue cope with this additional pressure?

JetBlue at Washington Reagan
Boston is one of JetBlue’s most important hubs. Photo: Getty Images

While JetBlue’s main operating base is John F. Kennedy International in New York, Boston is one of the airline’s most important hubs. In total, the airport accounts for around 30 percent of JetBlue’s total capacity. Consequently, the expansion plans outlined by American Airlines and Delta could spell trouble for JetBlue going forward.

Competition from two giants

Within the past year, both American Airlines and Delta have announced their plans for a significant expansion of services out of Boston. Back in August last year, Delta revealed it would be making Boston a hub as part of its growth plans going forward. The Atlanta-based airline has set its sights on matching JetBlue’s presence in Boston, aiming for 200 departures within the next two years.

Delta sees Boston as the ideal location for an international hub that primarily serves business customers, and it will increase its volume of trans-Atlantic seats out of the airport by 30 percent in 2020. Among the new transatlantic routes Delta will be serving out of Boston in 2020 are London Gatwick, Manchester and Rome.

Delta Embraer 175 at Boston
Delta will increase international seats out of Boston by 30% in 2020. Photo: Fletcher via Wikimedia Commons

American Airlines recently responded to Delta’s move with its own expansion plans for Boston, which it largely pulled out of following its 2014 merger with US Airways. As reported by The Points Guy, American Airlines says that its new Boston services are a response to passenger demand, although it’s likely much more about staving off competition from Delta. Indianapolis and Wilmington are both new routes American Airlines has added to its Boston schedule, the former of which is also served by Delta.

In a January press statement, American Airlines’ senior vice president of network strategy, Vasu Raja, said, “Boston is an important market, and we are happy to provide new and increased service to places that matter the most to our customers.”

JetBlue’s formula for success

While the arrival of American Airlines and Delta at Boston will undoubtedly increase pressure on JetBlue, JetBlue’s business model in Boston is different to its competitors. JetBlue’s services out of Boston are primarily point-to-point routes, which it believes will help reduce passenger losses to Delta and American Airlines.

American Airlines Airbus A321 at Boston
American Airlines has revealed its own Boston expansion to compete with Delta. Photo: Alan Wilson via Flickr

As reported by Skift, JetBlue’s chief financial officer, Steve Priest, says JetBlue believes its focus on point-to-point routes will be a big positive. “Think about Boston from a geographical standpoint. It doesn’t really lend itself to a hub-and-spoke city,” he told investors.

Additionally, JetBlue’s focus on passenger satisfaction and in-flight experience has helped it build up a loyal following among passengers in the US and further afield. JetBlue also has its own Boston expansion plan for 2020, which includes increased frequencies to destinations across the US.

Simple Flying has reached out to JetBlue with a request for comment on its outlook at Boston. The airline hasn’t been able to respond yet, but we will update this article once we receive more information.