Skip to content

JetBlue's president on how the new London service is going, and what’s next

Oct. 08, 2021
6 min read
JetBlue's president on how the new London service is going, and what’s next
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

JetBlue's first foray across the Atlantic has been years in the making. As the worst of the pandemic receded and the vaccine first became available, it seemed almost perfectly aligned for the New York-based airline to launch its first routes to London.

As the airline announced service from New York to both London Heathrow and Gatwick (with service from Boston delayed until 2022) and began planning for the routes, things quickly changed. The delta variant spread around the U.K. and then the U.S., with cases, hospitalizations, and deaths surging as the vaccine drive began to stall. The U.S. remained closed to many foreign visitors, while the U.K. continued to impose a 10-day quarantine on Americans, regardless of vaccination or test status.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG's free new biweekly Aviation newsletter!

Weeks before it was scheduled to begin flying to London Heathrow with its brand new Airbus A321LR fleet, with no sign of a reopening, JetBlue pared back its service from daily to 4 times a week. But then, days before the inaugural in August, the U.K. began to allow vaccinated, negative-testing visitors from the U.S. and other countries to skip the quarantine. In September, as JetBlue prepared to begin flying to London Gatwick, as well, the U.S. announced a scheduled reopening of its borders in November.

The launch of JetBlue's London service came during turbulent times. But the airline's president, Joanna Geraghty, said that things are looking very, very up.

"The day that the Biden administration announced they were lifting 212(f)" — the restriction on foreign visitors to the U.S. — "we saw a 500% increase in bookings" on the London routes, Geraghty told TPG during an interview at the International Air Transportation meeting in Boston this week.

"We think the level of pent-up demand is akin to probably what we saw [domestically] this summer."

Jetblue president and COO Joanna Geraghty speaks at London Gatwick following her airline's inaugural flight to the airport. Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy.

It's good news for the entire airline industry, and while the transatlantic routes make up just a fraction of JetBlue's overall network, it's a positive sign considering the high importance the airline has placed on the flagship service.

"Given 212(f) was still in place, [load factors] where definitely nowhere near what we'd like them to be," Geraghty told TPG last week, ahead of the inaugural Gatwick flight. "So we're really excited about what the holiday period looks like."

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Geraghty confirmed that the airline plans to restore its schedule to include daily service to both Heathrow and Gatwick in November, making the more-frequent capacity available.

With the launch, JetBlue has been marketing aggressively to both leisure and business travelers originating in the U.K., courting travel agents and corporate travel managers. For instance, Geraghty and JetBlue corporate employees flew to London on the Gatwick inaugural, then spent several days networking and pitching the carrier.

"We're certainly spending more energy in the U.K. originating piece just because our brand isn't as well-known over there, so that's where we're kind of doubling down," Geraghty said during the interview at IATA. "On the U.S. side, think small, medium businesses, similar to our Mint strategy."

"And there's also the high-value leisure customer," she added. "As we think about exiting the pandemic, there's most certainly, I think, a willingness for customers to maybe spend a little more on, you know, a better experience as they start returning to travel again."

Key to those markets, Geraghty said, is offering a premium product that, while not cheap, can be less expensive than business class on traditional airlines.

"First class, premium, has often been the cabin that people couldn't access because it wasn't affordable," she said. "And so we've disrupted with Mint going to the west coast, it's now accessible, it's affordable for small, medium businesses that don't have large corporate contracts. Same with as we go to London."

While the airline plans long-term to market its all-in-one JetBlue Vacations packages in the U.K. market, the priority right now is just building brand recognition in the U.K. and increasing the airline's foothold in the British market.

JetBlue president and COO Joanna Geraghty speaks at JFK airport ahead of the airline's inaugural flight to London Gatwick. Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy.

"Right now, we're very much focused on building our brand in the U.K., launching service, and then continuing to kind of increase levels of service," including with the Boston launch in 2022 (JetBlue has not announced which airport or airports in London would see the service from Boston).

As London takes off, JetBlue is already starting to set its sights further abroad.

"If you think about the range of the -321LR, think Western Europe, and think: where we do well tends to be overpriced markets where service is inferior. So longer-term, could it be Amsterdam, Paris, or Dublin? Those are some of the locations that I think the plane would do well from a range perspective," Geraghty said.

With 13 of the even more extended range A321XLR in its order book, with the first scheduled for delivery at the end of 2024, the airline could extend even deeper into Europe, Geraghty added.

"That will give us greater access into central and Eastern Europe."

London calling: Where to sit when flying JetBlue’s A321LR to and from the United Kingdom

As far as connecting additional U.S. cities to Europe, Geraghty said that the airline is focusing on its hubs — at least for now.

"For now, it's New York and Boston. 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."

Featured image by JetBlue president and COO Joanna Geraghty on the airline's inaugural flight to London's Gatwick airport. Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy.
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.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

BEST FOR DINING AND GROCERY REWARDS
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

Earn 60,000 points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There’s a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It’s been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you’re hitting the skies soon, you’ll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there’s no reason that the foodie shouldn’t add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x).
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel.
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months.

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories.
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits.
  • Few travel perks and protections.
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
BEST FOR DINING AND GROCERY REWARDS
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.

    Earn 60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There’s a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It’s been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you’re hitting the skies soon, you’ll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there’s no reason that the foodie shouldn’t add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x).
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel.
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months.

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories.
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits.
  • Few travel perks and protections.