JetBlue says new New York-London flights will shake things up

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JetBlue will fly daily from New York to Heathrow, shown here, and Gatwick airports.
JetBlue will fly daily from New York to Heathrow, shown here, and Gatwick airports. Photo Credit: Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock.com

JetBlue is promising that its newly scheduled New York-London flights will disrupt a transatlantic aviation market that is dominated by the three airline alliances.

The discount carrier revealed May 19 that it will fly daily to both Heathrow and Gatwick airports from JFK, answering the long-standing question of which airports it would service in the British capital. Heathrow flights will lead the way, beginning Aug. 11. Gatwick will follow Sept. 29.

In selecting Heathrow and Gatwick, JetBlue has taken advantage of the Covid-19 crisis, which has opened up landing slots at both of these capacity-constrained airports. JetBlue will be the fourth U.S. airline serving Heathrow, joining the Big Three of American, Delta and United. It will be just the second U.S. carrier at Gatwick, alongside American. JetBlue will also be one of only four U.S. airlines flying across the Atlantic.

Service from Boston Logan to London will follow in summer 2022, but JetBlue hasn't settled yet on the airport pairings. While the carrier has secured long-term access to landing rights at Gatwick, its access to Heathrow is, for now, only temporary. 

"We continue to work with the slot coordinators and the U.S. and U.K. governments to identify long-term pathways to continue serving Heathrow, as we believe the public benefit from true competition into this market will be extremely meaningful," JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said as part of that May 19 announcement.

Robin Hayes
Robin Hayes

Hayes also doubled down on a long-standing assertion that JetBlue will be transformative in the U.S.-London and broader transatlantic aviation markets, especially when it comes to premium-class offerings. The carrier will use new narrow-body Airbus A321LRs on its London flights featuring 24 Mint business-class suites and 117 economy-class seats. 

"Our low fares will disrupt the pricing of the major carriers and massive joint ventures; JetBlue's presence in this market is going to be immediately noticeable to customers," Hayes said. "When we launched Mint in 2014, we cut in half the cost of premium travel between New York and California, and now we're ready to shake up the transatlantic market the same way."

Starting Mint roundtrip fares from JFK to both Heathrow and Gatwick will be $1,979, and introductory economy fares will be $599.

Transatlantic flying has long been dominated by carriers in the Star, SkyTeam and Oneworld alliances, and their control will be more concentrated coming out of the pandemic than it was in early 2020 because of the collapse of discount carrier Norwegian's long-haul service. More specifically, joint venture partnerships between American, British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Finnair; United and Lufthansa; and Delta, Virgin Atlantic, Air France and KLM dominate the U.S.-Western Europe market. 

Commercial aviation industry analyst and blogger Jason Rabinowitz said that, for now, JetBlue's offering of just two U.S.-London flights per day will limit its influence. And a late departure time to Heathrow of 10:10 p.m. coupled with a late return time from Heathrow of 6:10 p.m. won't help matters. But he said JetBlue definitely could disrupt the status quo once it ramps up service, including potentially pushing alliance carriers into lowering their own business-class ticket prices. 

"It happened in the transcontinental market here in the U.S., so there is no reason it couldn't happen transatlantic," Rabinowitz said. 

The greatest customer enhancement offered by JetBlue, though, might come in the coach cabin, Rabinowitz said. JetBlue will be the first transatlantic airline to offer free WiFi to economy customers. It also will offer a differentiated economy food service, including enabling flyers to use their seatback screens to mix and match among three entree selections and two out of three side dishes.

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