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JetBlue says it’s being ‘locked out’ of London airports, urges UK government to take action

Jan. 27, 2021
4 min read
JetBlue says it’s being ‘locked out’ of London airports, urges UK government to take action
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JetBlue hasn’t finalized its long-awaited service to London. In a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation, JetBlue said that it’s facing “slot uncertainty” in the U.K. and has called on the U.S. government to take “official notice.”

The complaint details that JetBlue is facing difficulties in obtaining slots in London’s airports, even as more airlines pull out of the city’s busiest airports. The airline claims that it’s being “locked out” of London’s airports and has called on the U.K. government to take action.

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“Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian continue to hold their LGW slots even where, as in the case of Virgin Atlantic, there are no firm plans for the carrier to resume service at the airport anytime soon,” JetBlue said in its filing.

JetBlue has identified that it’s had difficulties in securing slots at both Heathrow and additional slots at Gatwick. In November, the carrier secured slots at both Gatwick and London Stansted (STN), but was denied from acquiring any slots at Heathrow.

“At the same time, carriers like JetBlue, poised to enter the transatlantic market and disrupt the status quo and fulfill a crucial need for low-cost carrier transatlantic service, are unable to sufficiently secure LHR slots or consistently timed LGW slots because of the fiction that carriers are going to return to the pre-COVID-19 status quo. They are not, and the U.K. government needs to address this reality immediately.”

The airline has urged the U.K. government to take a similar approach to that of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the U.S. There, the agency has extended slot relief at seven airports in the country whereby carriers are exempt from the typical requirement that they operate at least 80% of their scheduled flights, but the FAA has urged airlines to return slots voluntarily.

Earlier this month, low-cost carrier Norwegian Air announced that it would be suspending the long-haul segment of its business. As a result, it was forced to close its crew bases around the world, including at London Gatwick, where the airline focussed its U.K. operations. But the airline still has its slots at the airport, which it could be planning to use to bolster its short-haul operation.

Related: Norwegian Air to axe long-haul operations in bid to survive

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Virgin Atlantic, meanwhile, announced in May 2020 that it would be closing its Gatwick base, focusing instead on Heathrow. However, the airline kept its slots at Gatwick, planning to return to the airport when customer demand rebounds. In both the cases of Norwegian and Virgin Atlantic, JetBlue is urging the U.K. government to take action to free up the slots.

In November, JetBlue secured 14 of the 28 slots it requested at Gatwick, which is enough for the airline to fly one daily service between London and one of its East Coast hub cities of New York (JFK) or Boston (BOS). At Stansted, meanwhile, the airline secured all of the 28 slots that it requested, which are enough to fly two daily return flights between the airport and one of its East Coast hubs.

It’s clear that JetBlue isn’t happy with a solely-Stansted London operation. As the airline looks to launch its London operations, the low-cost carrier that’s famed for its Mint business-class product is looking for more desirable slot options.

The airline is still eyeing a 2021 launch for London flights — although it still hasn’t nailed down to which airport. The airline will operate routes between London and New York (JFK) or Boston (BOS) with one of its Airbus A321LR aircraft.

Related: This is the plane that will take JetBlue too London

With the exit of low-cost carrier Norwegian from the market, JetBlue could have a full opportunity to scoop up leisure demand. The airline will surely be banking on pent-up demanded when the coronavirus pandemic-related travel restrictions ease.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023