JetBlue eyes 2021 for London service, but which airport?

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To support its transatlantic operations, JetBlue has converted 13 Airbus A321 aircraft on order to the longer-flying A321LRs.
To support its transatlantic operations, JetBlue has converted 13 Airbus A321 aircraft on order to the longer-flying A321LRs.

JetBlue plans to launch multiple daily flights from Boston and New York Kennedy to London beginning in 2021.

Wednesday's announcement came nearly three years after JetBlue first said publicly that it was considering an initiation of European service. 

"The fares being charged today by airlines on these routes, specifically on the premium end, are enough to make you blush," JetBlue president Joanna Geraghty said in a prepared statement. 

The carrier said that it would offer lower fares than can typically be found on New York-London flights, while providing the comfortable cabin experience that it is known for on domestic and Caribbean flights. The savings will be especially significant for business-class flyers, JetBlue said. 

To support its transatlantic operations, JetBlue has converted 13 Airbus A321 aircraft on order to the longer-flying A321LRs. Each of those aircraft will have more of the business-class Mint seats than the 16 that JetBlue currently offers on transcontinental routes. The Mint cabin will also be "reimagined" for transatlantic flying, JetBlue said. Economy cabins will be adapted for transatlantic service, too.

"JetBlue's transatlantic core offering will be designed for customers who already know and love the JetBlue experience as the airline remains committed to being an industry leader in comfort and service," the airline said. 

JetBlue will enter a transatlantic marketplace in which 72% of market share is controlled by antitrust-immune joint ventures involving Delta, United and American, according to the CAPA Centre for Aviation. The recent generation of challengers to their reign is struggling. Most notably, Icelandic ultralow-cost carrier Wow ceased operations late last month. Transatlantic discount carrier Primera Air closed last fall. And Norwegian Air, the largest upstart in the U.S.-Europe market, lost approximately $450 million in 2018 and is now shifting its focus from growth to cost savings. 

JetBlue didn't say to which London airport it will fly. The airline said it is "evaluating which London airports it will serve."

One challenge JetBlue could face is obtaining arrival and departure slots at capacity-constrained Heathrow and Gatwick airports, Wolfe Research stock analyst Hunter Keay wrote in a note Wednesday afternoon. 

"Relying on regulators to help is fraught with unpredictability," he said.

Geraghty alluded to the problem in the Wednesday announcement. 

"It's time for regulators here in the U.S. and across Europe to create conditions where smaller carriers and new entrants can thrive, instead of letting the giant airlines get even bigger through joint ventures," she said. "Given a chance to compete, JetBlue can have a tremendous effect on lowering fares and stimulating traffic."

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