JetBlue seeks to use its incoming fleet of Airbus A321LRs and XLRs on unserved and underserved routes to Europe. However, any new opportunities absolutely must make sense, as highlighted by its Director of Network Planning at World Routes.
JetBlue actively exploring new European routes
JetBlue inaugurated Europe with New York JFK to London Heathrow. This began over three months ago, on August 11th, with seven-weekly flights from the end of the winter season. It was joined by JFK to Gatwick on September 29th, which will also operate seven-weekly from the same period.
This is just the start of JetBlue’s expansion to Europe, according to Eric Friedman, JetBlue’s Director of Network Planning. He was speaking at World Routes in Milan, the industry event where airlines and airports get together. This was later echoed by Andrea Lusso, VP of Network Planning, who said that “transatlantic is working well and there’s certainly more to come.”
However, the expansion will be highly controlled and focus only on “relevant” routes. Friedman said the carrier won’t be “opening new transatlantic routes for the sake of it.” Any new route must be able to fill its custom-designed Mint business-class cabin.
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JetBlue’s A321LR and XLR deliveries
London and other European routes will use low-capacity A321LRs and incoming XLRs. The LRs have just 138 seats: 24 in Mint (fully flat), 24 in Even More Space (premium economy), and 90 Core (economy). The carrier expects 11 LRs to be delivered through 2023 and 13 through 2025.
Over one-third of JetBlue’s transatlantic aircraft seats are premium, vividly demonstrating how crucial it’ll be in deciding where to fly. It also shows how different its offering is compared with long-haul, low-cost carriers (LHLCCs) that favor cabin density, the latter something that JetBlue rarely mentions when discussing Europe. There is minimal comparison to LHLCCs.
What does JetBlue require for more Europe?
In considering potential European opportunities, Friedman acknowledged that “the XLR creates unique opportunities that at first appear risky.” This is code for requiring support – financial and marketing – with airports. It expects to share that risk and for both parties to benefit consequently. This risk-sharing approach is one of four criteria Friedman set out at World Routes:
- How is your destination relevant to JetBlue’s New York and Boston customers?
- Can your destination generate superior margins on a year-round, daily-service basis?
- Can your destination fill our Mint cabin?
- How can we share the risk of a new route?
Despite JetBlue’s strong network from JFK and Boston, its transatlantic operation will revolve around point-to-point demand, which is sensible as P2P is higher-yielding than connecting traffic. This is helped by such low-density aircraft and the size of New York and Boston markets.
Where could be next in Europe?
The LR and the XLR could open up new opportunities in Scandinavia, Switzerland, northern Italy, and more. There are multiple decent-sized unserved point-to-point markets, such as New York to Bologna, Gothenburg, Toulouse, and Stuttgart, together with Boston to Milan, Stockholm, Brussels, and Geneva.
And there are large numbers of underserved markets. However, it’ll be crucial that they can continuously fill the Mint cabin (meaning sufficiently high average fares) and be served on a daily basis year-round. This will limit very much where is realistic.
Considering this, and looking at fare data and distance, the author doesn’t expect much ‘unusual.’ Instead, the likes of JFK to Paris CDG, Edinburgh, Manchester, Dublin, and Amsterdam are possibilities in the nearer future.
Where would you like JetBlue to serve in Europe? Let us know in the comments.