JetBlue secures London Heathrow slots for its transatlantic debut
JetBlue's hop across the pond may actually land at London's most desirable airport.
The New York-based airline has been allocated 270 slots for flights to and from London Heathrow (LHR) airport. On Friday, Airport Coordination Limited (SCL), the slot coordinator for London's Heathrow airport (LHR), released an updated report for the summer 2021 schedule, which includes the aforementioned slots given to JetBlue for its inaugural transatlantic service.
180 slots have been allocated for flight to New York-JFK and the remaining 90 are earmarked for service to Boston (BOS).
Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!
JetBlue will fly to Terminal 2 at LHR, per the slot filings.
The carrier has received 14 slots beginning during the week of Aug. 2, so daily London service could theoretically begin then. That number jumps to 22 for the week of Sept. 13, and then climbs to 28 during the week of Sept. 20, through the end of the season on Oct. 30.
Each slot can be used for one takeoff or landing, so a round-trip itinerary requires a pair of them.
It remains to be seen if these slots are permanent, or just allocated temporarily during the demand downturn and associated usage waivers due to the pandemic. Airlines that fly to LHR have been granted relief from the "use-it-or-lose-it" clause that typically requires a slot to be used 80% of the time, or else it's forfeited.
According to JetBlue, however, no decision has been made yet as to which London airport(s) it'll fly to, as it explained in a statement.
We can’t wait to launch transatlantic service later this year and love all the enthusiasm and speculation for where JetBlue will touch down. We can only expect this speculation will increase as we get closer to an announcement, and we won’t comment on our specific plans until we have made a final decision on our initial London airport.
We have always said that we have a viable path into more than one London airport and that over the long term we expect to serve multiple airports in London – just as we do in New York, Los Angeles, South Florida, and Washington, D.C. JetBlue has applied for multiple slots at various airports and we are discussing the availability of various permanent and temporary slots with the slot coordinators. Those discussions are continuing and we will evaluate what each London airport is proposing before making a final decision that best supports our transatlantic strategy. We believe JetBlue’s incredible service and low fares would be welcomed in all of London’s area airports, and we look forward to sharing official news once we have completed the process with each airport.
Per ACL filings, JetBlue also holds 270 slots to fly to London Gatwick (LGW), a far less popular airport for flyers headed to the city center. The carrier has relinquished the slots it was awarded at the Stansted (STN) airport according to the latest data.
Related: The hottest new airline route of 2021 draws a ton of speculation
Either way, the carrier now has an "in" at London Heathrow, and that's big news for the airline that's looking to disrupt the existing transatlantic market.
In recent weeks, JetBlue added multiple references to LHR on its website and route map, leading to speculation among aviation observers that an official announcement was imminent. The carrier chalked it up to "periodic IT testing."
Getting slots at Heathrow has proven challenging for JetBlue. The carrier recently filed a complaint with the Department of Transporation, in which it mentions “slot uncertainty in the U.K.” is causing the airline to be “locked out” of London airports.
Related: The new gold standard: JetBlue’s spiffy Mint Studio, with the largest bed in biz
Only time will tell JetBlue's exact London plans. The carrier could theoretically split its operations, flying to both Gatwick and Heathrow.
One thing is for certain, though. JetBlue will deploy a brand-new Airbus A321LR on its transatlantic routes. In fact, TPG recently got a first-look tour of the new Mint business-class cabin that’ll debut on the carrier’s latest jet.