It took JetBlue two years from announcing its plans of transatlantic flights to the official start date. And a lot happened during these two years. Besides the global pandemic, JetBlue received new aircraft — specifically for their Europe expansion plans.
Attacking and Disrupting Premium Transatlantic Travel
JetBlue’s goal is apparent: Attacking and disrupting premium transatlantic travel. So, pretty much the same as what the airline did on U.S. transcontinental routes. For a round-trip between New York and London, JetBlue’s posh Mint business class is about $500 cheaper than any of its competitors at $1,979 each, a search on Google Flights shows.
JetBlue’s News York – London Route Isn’t Risk-Free
However, the idea of low-cost long-haul flights isn’t new at all. Many airlines tried, and all of them failed: From Freddie Laker in the 1970s to Primera Air, Air Berlin, Wow Air, or Norwegian. And undoubtedly, low-cost long-haul is probably one of the most challenging airline business models. The biggest problem lies in the fact that some significant low-cost advantages don’t work on long-haul routes — most prominently speedy turnarounds.
Nevertheless, it was too easy to project previous airline failures onto JetBlue’s plan. Especially since all of them failed for obvious yet different reasons: wrong aircraft, debt-funded expansions, or aircraft availability.
5 Reasons Why JetBlue’s Will be Successful With its London Strategy
Obviously, JetBlue’s plans aren’t risk-free at all. However, we think that JetBlue will be the first airline that successfully operates low-cost transatlantic flights: profitable and long-term. Here are the five reasons why we are convinced!
1 – Airbus A321LR is the perfect plane for low-cost transatlantic flights.
JetBlue specifically selected the A321LR for its transatlantic operations. Airbus’ variant of the A321neo seems to fit low-cost transatlantic operations perfectly: 141 seats, single-aisle, two-engines, and highly fuel-efficient. Simply put: Its economics are much more attractive than operating a larger twin-aisled jet.
2 — A Perfect Time to Start
Although it sounds crazy, JetBlue might decide the perfect time to start New York – London flights. The strategy is obvious: Once Europe and the U.S. are over the hump and COVID restrictions are lifted, people will begin to travel like crazy. And what we’ve seen during the last weeks on domestic routes is likely to repeat on intercontinental and transatlantic routes. And hey, here’s JetBlue!
3 — JetBlue’s Aircraft Strategy Fits the Changing Demand.
Most airline experts agree that it will take much longer for business travel to recover. Moreover, some argue that many business travelers will prefer Zoomtopia in the future and won’t reach the pre-COVID business travel peak ever again. That’s a massive problem for legacy carriers since they are likely to struggle to fill as many business seats on long-haul as before. If they try to compensate by hiking economy fares, passengers will be desperate for a cheaper alternative.
And hey, again, here’s JetBlue. JetBlue’s A321LR is equipped with 24 Mint seats and 117 economy seats, the latter including 24 with extra legroom. As a result, JetBlue’s aircraft seem to fit the short- and medium-term demand better than legacy carriers.
4 — JetBlue is Used to Long Distances
Certainly, transatlantic flights are a new challenge for JetBlue. Nevertheless, the 3,500 miles London – New York distance isn’t that much longer than some of JetBlue’s current routes.
|New York (JFK)||Guayaquil, Ecuador (GYE)||2,969|
|Boston (BOS)||San Fransisco (SFO)||2,704|
|Boston (BOS)||Oakland (OAK)||2,693|
|Boston (BOS)||San Jose (SJC)||2,689|
|Boston (BOS)||Sacramento (SMF)||2,636|
|Fort Lauderdale (FLL)||Lima, Peru (LIM)||2,627|
|Boston (BOS)||Los Angeles (LAX)||2,611|
|Boston (BOS)||Long Beach (LGB)||2,602|
|Boston (BOS)||Burbank (BUR)||2,601|
|Boston (BOS)||San Diego (SAN)||2,588|
Compared to JetBlue’s currently longest route New York – Guayaquil, the transatlantic route is only 500 miles (16%) longer. And even compared to JetBlue’s longest domestic route, Boston – San Fransico, the gap isn’t that big.
5 — Norwegian showed profitability works.
It’s true, Norwegian failed in the end. However, the carrier showed that it is possible to operate low-cost transatlantic flights profitably. Although the airline didn’t break out profitability by route type, executives insisted that some intercontinental services were “more than profitable.” The reasons why Norwegian failed were different. First off, the expansion was entirely debt-funded. More importantly, they faced problems that were totally out of its control: The grounding of Boeing 787 and 737 Max.
Beyond London: JetBlue’s Future Plans
According to JetBlue, London – New York is only the beginning of JetBlue’s European expansion. With 12 additional A321LR and 13 A321XLR, JetBlue will expand to more destinations throughout Europe in the coming years. Of course, that assumes a rebound of transatlantic travel. However, hopefully, this is more a matter of when and not if.
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Information and data on this post are based on internal data or JetBlue