JetBlue's 2nd European destination will be revealed this year, CEO says
JetBlue plans to announce its second transatlantic destination before the end of the year, with service expected to start in time for the 2023 summer travel season.
CEO Robin Hayes confirmed the plans in an interview with TPG ahead of the airline's inaugural flight from Boston Logan Airport (BOS) to London Gatwick Airport (LGW).
"It'll be announced in the next couple of months," he said. "Because you've got to give people notice to book it."
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The airline launched its long-awaited first flights across the Atlantic in 2021 with routes from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Gatwick and London Heathrow (LHR). JetBlue first announced plans in 2019 to launch London service, initially planning flights from both New York and Boston to begin by 2021. The Boston routes, however, were delayed a year, with the airline citing pandemic-related aircraft delivery delays.
The delivery delays have continued as Airbus, along with rival Boeing, has worked to manage supply chain disruptions. JetBlue uses Airbus A321LR extended-range aircraft to operate the transatlantic routes. After announcing launch dates for the Boston service this year, JetBlue pushed the inaugural flights to Gatwick and Heathrow back a month further due to more delivery delays.
"We had planned it conservatively," Hayes said. "And even that, as it turned out, wasn't conservatively enough."
The airline recently took delivery of its fourth A321LR, Hayes said. It is scheduled to receive two more this year, and a total of seven across 2023 and 2024. It has an additional 13 Airbus A321XLR aircraft on order, which features a further extended range, with deliveries planned to begin in 2024.
Hayes said that he expects the new route or routes to launch on time for next summer despite the supply chain challenges.
JetBlue has previously said it was interested in penetrating deeper into Europe as its long-range, narrow-body fleet grows. In October, airline President Joanna Geraghty cited the XLR as opening more options across the continent.
"That will give us greater access into central and Eastern Europe," Geraghty told TPG.
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At the time, she said that the airline planned to continue focusing on its hub cities for its European service, rather than looking to other U.S. cities within its network.
“For now, it’s New York and Boston," she said in October. "Whether that could extend to other destinations? Possibly. But when you think about the LR and the performance range, New York and Boston are sort of the sweet spots for that aircraft."
On Thursday, Hayes said that the airline had not decided which of its hub cities would be the first to see the new European route next summer, although both New York and Boston would eventually offer the service.
"The teams looking at a number of different options," he said. "We'll fly both [JFK and Boston], but we have to start with one."
Hayes also declined to say what that new destination would be.
With a range of 4,000 nautical miles, the A321LR could reach several prime European destinations from New York or Boston. They include Dublin, Reykjavik, Paris, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Madrid, Brussels, Munich, Copenhagen, Oslo, Norway, or possibly even Rome, although JetBlue's specific configuration of the plane determines the real-world working range. Aer Lingus and SAS already operate the A321LR on transatlantic routes.
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The A321XLR offers an additional 700 nautical miles of range, meaning JetBlue could operate to the same cities from farther away in the U.S, or have routes from bases in Florida to much of South America.
Dublin seems a possible contender given consistent strong demand from the Northeast as well as an existing codeshare partnership with Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus. JetBlue also partners with Icelandair. Regardless, the 2022 summer season has shown airlines that demand to Europe from the U.S. remains robust following the pandemic lockdowns, potentially offering JetBlue a bounty of choices.
"Summer's been really busy," Hayes said. "It's been good."
JetBlue plans to add a daily flight from Boston to Heathrow starting Sept. 20.
JetBlue's A321LRs feature the airline's top-of-the-line Mint Suites and Studios.
The 22 Mint Suites feature seats in a 1-1 herringbone layout, with seats angled slightly in towards the aisle. Each suite is fully enclosed and has a sliding door that closes all the way. Each also features a 17-inch screen, plenty of storage spaces and an integrated wireless phone charger. The two Mint Studios at the front of the cabin have a ton of extra space, two windows, a belted side seat (so a travel companion can come and chat, or so you can move around a bit) and a 22-inch screen. The Studios have a price premium over the Suite.
There are also 114 “Core” economy seats, 24 of which are “Even More Space” extra legroom seats. All 114 seats feature adjustable headrests with what the airline describes as “shoulder-friendly sidewalls.” Core seats have 10.1-inch screens, USB and standard AC power ports and organized seat pockets.