You have to give JetBlue credit for sticking to its plans. Despite a summer airline swoon and the global pandemic, the airline is launching its long-planned New York-London service next week.
After months of teasing a first “third quarter” flight, the first transatlantic flight, from JFK to London Heathrow, will take off on August 11. Flights to London Gatwick Airport will begin on September 29. Both routes are already on sale. .
(Full disclosure: I own shares in American, Southwest, and JetBlue.)
The introduction of a new transatlantic route during a pandemic that has parked 16,000 airliners is certainly not a sure thing. But Jet Blue has done what it can to reduce the risk of this new service and increase the potential for rewards.
- Jet Blue will devote only 3 planes to the transatlantic service. The airline has just taken delivery of its first Airbus A321LR at the end of April 2021. Delivery delays linked to COVID have led the airline to postpone the Boston-London service to the summer of 2022.
- Jet Blue A321LR aircraft for New York / London flights only have 114 economy class seats and 24 high income Mint business class seats. With just 138 seats, the plane is easy to fill with passengers, especially compared to wide-body aircraft like the Airbus A380 (509 seats) or the Boeing 787-8 (291 seats) that Norwegian Airlines once operated as a long – low cost courier. carrier.
- Jet Blue’s A321LR is very fuel efficient, a critical component for economies in an era of increasing fuel scarcity. The aircraft has a range of 4,000 miles and consumes up to 20% less fuel than previous models.
- Competitive fares should translate into a high load factor of economy class passengers. Meanwhile, the 24 Mint seats and suites can prove to be a cost-effective business-class product that can attract elusive business travelers with lower fares than competitors.
- In the unlikely event that this dip in transatlantic service is unsuccessful or interrupted by another international lockdown, JetBlue can simply redeploy its long-range A321LRs; one of them has already made an American transcontinental flight.
So far, this summer, like last summer, has been mostly devoted to domestic leisure travel, which has kept stocks of airlines (including JetBlue) in the doldrums. But it seems clear that many Millennials are more than ready to sever the surly bonds of house arrest and head for a Europe that reopens.
Probably not accidentally, Jet Blue also appears to have good timing on the COVID-19 front.
As of August 2, the UK government said ‘you will not have to quarantine or take a day 8 test upon arrival in England if you have been … fully vaccinated with a vaccine authorized in the United States or in Europe… You must show your proof from the travel operator that you have been fully vaccinated with one of the authorized vaccines before your trip. This proof must be a “CDC card [with record of complete vaccination] for the United States. You will also need proof of residence in the United States, such as a United States passport, visa, or green card.
The Biden administration has not lifted restrictions on Europeans visiting the United States, citing the rise of the Delta variant. And the State Department continues to maintain a Level 4 “Do not travel” warning on the UK, citing COVID and the risk of terrorism.
Yet low fares have always been a reliable lure for travelers since the airline industry has existed. JetBlue also has an attractive, albeit temporary, cost advantage. The Guardian says the pandemic has in fact made it easier for JetBlue to enter Heathrow. “The airport’s coveted landing slots are being traded between airlines for tens of millions… but the system has effectively been suspended as many flights are stranded – giving JetBlue, at least temporarily, a let. pass to operate. “
Joanna Geraghty, President and COO of JetBlue, told me in an interview in February: “London is the largest underserved market outside of New York and Boston. We think we can disrupt with a much better product. “
This product includes the “Transatlantic Mint Experience” which includes 24 private suites, each with a sliding door and seat cushions customized by Tuft & Needle. But “core” (economy) JetBlue customers can also take advantage of the new aircraft.
JetBlue, which has partnered with New York-based restaurant Dig to provide customizable hot meal options. And in a welcome return to post-COVID civilization, beer, wine and alcohol will be available
JetBlue said transatlantic flights “will offer the most legroom in the coach and wider seats than those found on most wide-body planes.” The airline added that the Collins Meridian economy class seats have an enlarged width of 18.4 inches, wider than most seats on wide-body planes. JetBlue also claims 32 inches of legroom, along with contoured seat backs for more knee room.
Each seat has easy-to-access AC and USB-C ports, as well as a 10.1-inch 1080P high-definition display. Content includes live TV, pre-recorded shows including HBO and Showtime, and free, unlimited high-speed Wi-Fi. .
So far, tickets appear to be selling. JetBlue’s launch date, August 11, had passed. The lowest fare until September we found was a $ 202 Blue Basic ticket from JFK to London on September 8, with the lowest return on September 23 at $ 398. (With the Blue Basic fare, travelers get one hand baggage and one personal item included, but there is a charge for checked baggage, for changes / cancellations and for seat selection at the advance.)
Using the same dates, a round-trip Mint class fare was $ 2,075 round trip, with taxes and fees added to $ 1,687.45, for a total of $ 3,762.45. Although UK taxes and fees remain prohibitive, Mint seats appeared to be a commercial success for JetBlue, with only 2 out of 24 still available.
And while there is still a month of leisure travel left in the summer, JetBlue believes that after Labor Day, “suits will replace sandals” when the elusive business traveler returns.