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JetBlue says likelihood of London Heathrow flights has improved because of pandemic

Oct. 01, 2020
3 min read
JetBlue says likelihood of London Heathrow flights has improved because of pandemic
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JetBlue Airways is ready to celebrate the launch of its long-planned flights to London late next year, underscoring its enthusiasm for the route with a new special "streamers" tail for its new Airbus A321LRs that will operated the service.

Those jets are being assembled now in Germany and JetBlue has secured spaced for its new service at its Boston (BOS) and New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) gateway. But one big question remains: what London airport will the airline serve?

“We do think that Heathrow is a good possibility for us," Scott Laurence, JetBlue's head of revenue and planning, told TPG in an exclusive interview on Wednesday. "As we navigate through this crisis, I think there is a better chance that Heathrow will be a JetBlue airport.”

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Laurence's comments came after a report that JetBlue had already secured slots to serve Heathrow (LHR) next year. He denied the report, saying it "surprised" him.

Still, Heathrow is the preferred airport for London-bound travelers. Only about 18 miles from central London — and well connected by Tube and Heathrow Express rail links — the airport is considered more convenient than the city's other airports, including Gatwick (LGW), Luton (LTN) and Stansted (STN). Only London City (LCY) is closer, but flights to the airport are restricted by its short runway.

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London Heathrow is also slot-controlled, and those slots are incredibly valuable for the carriers that have them. For example, Air New Zealand sold its two slots at the airport for $27 million in March just before COVID-19 hit. A slot is good for either one takeoff or landing, meaning two slots — or a "slot pair" — allows for one round-trip flight.

Related: JetBlue unveils ‘streamers’ tail for new Airbus jet that will take it to London

However, airlines have cut flights dramatically because of the pandemic — particularly long-haul international flights like JetBlue plans. Rules requiring airlines use slot assets at least 80% of the time have been waived in Europe through March 2021. After that, an incumbent could forfeit slots it is not using to competitors or newcomers like JetBlue.

JetBlue needs at least four slots at any London airport to offer one daily flight to both Boston and New York. It would need additional slot pairs for each added daily flight.

American Airlines and its partner British Airways, and Delta Air Lines and its partner Virgin Atlantic Airways had planned to add flights on both London routes this year to head off JetBlue. The status of these planned additions is up in the air with COVID-related cutbacks and Virgin Atlantic's restructuring.

Related: Which London Airport Will JetBlue Fly To?

Featured image by JetBlue A321LR. (Image courtesy of JetBlue Airways)

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    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

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  • Annual Fee

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    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
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Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
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  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.