Report: JetBlue Secures London Heathrow Slots

Filed Under: JetBlue

There’s an exciting update for JetBlue’s upcoming transatlantic service…

JetBlue launching London flights in 2021

In April 2019, JetBlue formally announced plans to launch transatlantic flights by 2021. While exact details were initially limited, the plan is for the airline to launch multiple daily flights from both Boston and New York JFK to London as of some point in 2021.

JetBlue Mint cabin

About a month ago JetBlue’s CEO confirmed the airline still has plans to launch these flights in 2021 (despite the pandemic), but that the plan is now for these flights to launch in late 2021. It sounds like we should expect the service to launch somewhere around the start of the winter schedule, which is in late October.

JetBlue’s new transatlantic service is possible thanks to the 13 Airbus A321LRs that the airline has on order, which are capable of operating the transatlantic flight with ease. JetBlue’s very first A321LR is currently being assembled, so that’s pretty exciting.

Since the initial order, the airline has even ordered 13 A321XLRs, which are even longer range, though they won’t be delivered until 2023 at the earliest.

While JetBlue set the standard for narrow body business class with its A321 Mint product, the airline plans to introduce an all new Mint seat on the A321LR, featuring direct aisle access from every seat.

Could this be JetBlue’s new transatlantic business class?

JetBlue allegedly secured Heathrow slots

One real challenge for JetBlue has been trying to figure out the best strategy for picking a London airport. Ideally JetBlue has wanted to service Heathrow all along (as just about all airlines do), but it’s also the most congested airport in London, and slots are often sold for tens of millions of dollars.

JetBlue has long been urging regulators to change how slots are awarded, in order to increase competition. Well, it looks like coronavirus may be helping JetBlue in that way.

UK Aviation News is reporting that JetBlue has allegedly secured slots at Heathrow Airport, and that an announcement should be imminent. I’d wait for official confirmation before taking this as fact, but I suppose if there has ever been a time where Heathrow slots are readily available, this would be it.

I’ll be very curious to see:

  • How many slots JetBlue was able to secure
  • If JetBlue had to pay for these slots, or if they were somehow awarded as part of some lottery
  • If this will impact when JetBlue starts London flights, based on a potential necessary starting date (but I guess with slot restrictions being relaxed, this might be less of an issue)

If this is true, this is an exciting development for JetBlue. I think the one potential concern is what will happen if JetBlue wants to expand in London over time:

  • Chances are that in several years it will be much more difficult and/or costly to secure Heathrow slots
  • Would the airline then split operations between Heathrow and Gatwick, or would it pay tens of millions of dollars for Heathrow slots?

JetBlue’s initial routes to London

Bottom line

It’s being reported that JetBlue has managed to secure Heathrow slots for its service to London, launching in 2021. If this is true, it would be great news. I’m curious to see just how many slots the airline managed to get its hands on. And for that matter I can’t wait to see what JetBlue’s new Mint product will look like.

JetBlue managing to secure Heathrow slots may be one ever-so-slight silver lining for the airline during the pandemic.

Comments
  1. @Bill
    Ben did not make it clear that the photo he attached was purely his speculation. I doubt B6 would want to include this specific seat in their narrowbodies, as they do not even work well on 777s. Seat innovation could have advanced even more by 2023, so I will not worry.

  2. By which time BA will have already deployed 777s equipped with Club Suites. As much as I want to support the little guy, I’m not sure how I feel about crossing the Atlantic on a narrow body, what with the turbulence and all. Also not a big fan of seats facing away from windows.. hmm…

  3. @ Anthony — JetBlue won’t be a part of the transatlantic joint between American, British Airways, Finnair, and Iberia. I’ll also be curious to see if it’ll still be possible to earn and redeem AAdvantage miles on transatlantic JetBlue flights, or exactly that will be handled.

  4. @ Katie — Heathrow is generally considered the most premium London airport. While it’s no doubt a crowded market, JetBlue will still bring some much needed competition and lower prices in premium cabins significantly. JetBlue disrupted premium pricing in the NYC-LAX/SFO market, and I think they’ll do the same here.

    For example, take a look at the lowest one-way business class fare on any airline currently between New York and London. The lowest price I see is $2,629. I bet JetBlue fares will start at close to a third of that.

  5. @ Bill — As @beyounged said, there’s no guarantee this will be the seat. However, it does seem likely to me, given that JetBlue currently uses a Vantage seat, and this is the evolution of that. I’m sure we’ll find out more soon.

  6. If JetBlue bought slots, who would it buy them from?

    I’ve never understood the rationale of airlines buying and selling slots among themselves, as happens at crowded airports in the US.

    These are public assets, not airline assets, and if anyone gets the money from this scarce resource it should be the airport itself, on behalf of the flying public.

  7. Didn’t JetBlue pioneer doors on J class seats?
    It feels a bit strange for them to give that up when entering one of the most ferociously competitive markets in the world, especially when their biggest competitor will be the gorilla-like BA, which is just introducing doors…

    I’m glad this JetBlue is now apparently confirming LHR.

  8. I feel like they JetBlue is more likely to introduce reverse herringbone seats with doors, in line with the logic @The nice Paul has. I’m also interested in the service they will provide in Economy (how their meals will be, if there will be unlimited snacks, etc., if they will have blankets and pillows, etc. ).

  9. JetBlue is still arguing at the DOT for the remedy slots Delta was given in 2010. Before speculating and naming reports of JetBlue securing slots at Heathrow, make sure to read the DOT proceedings and their answers to the American/IAG JV. One thing for sure, JetBlue will not be spending any amount of money that will increase their cash burning rate during a pandemic.

  10. It’ll be interesting to see what the prices will be. If JetBlue J is half of BA J, even without door, I would pick JetBlue as I think the service and food is better. I would def go to London (and by extension rest of Europe) a lot more often if JetBlue J price is substantially lower than what’s commonly available pre-Covid. Can’t wait for Covid19 to be over and start traveling again! This is very exciting!!

  11. I don’t understand why more airlines don’t fly into London City airport. We flew into it last year and it was so much faster than getting through Heathrow. I think our train ride was 15 minutes, switched to the tube, and was at our hotel probably in 30 minutes total. I know it doesn’t have a lounge which would be a bummer flying out but seriously it is much better than getting to Gatwick or Stansted.

  12. Let’s hope that seats as pictured are not even on the radar! They are widely disliked and many will go to some lengths to avoid them.
    Air New Zealand has them on their 777s; an unpopular decision they have regretted, not that they would publicly ever admit!

  13. I would love to fly to london from JFK to Lhr for 2k roundtrip.

    So many deals in the reverse very few to Lhr

  14. Many carriers have stopped flying to LHR or suspended operations. Plenty of slots open at the moment. Wondering what happened to SAA’s slots?.

    B6 will be VERY successful on this route. There will need to offer lounge access, which is easy with many paid for lounges open to airline contracts.

  15. Due to the slot waiver everyone still holds their slots, so none have been returned for reallocation. However I imagine some carriers like Ethiad, SAA etc might be willing to let them go for a reasonable price at this point if they’ve no hope of using them in the future

    Boston they can get some remedy slots from AA/BAA IIRC

  16. There are some slots that just get given up or lost because of the 80/20 rule

    Nowergian were given 3 pairs for this summer from the lottery for that pool of slots (so 3 flights per week) but gave them up even before covid was a thing.

    Can’t remember who else got LHR slots but the documents are are on the slot controllers website (their name escapes me at the moment)

    So there are slots out there that don’t need to be paid for. But the times of the slots are also important to be able to provide a meaningful service for passengers unless they are prepared to take off and land at odd times.

    Some one commented on ‘yet another airline’ to add to the ‘millions’ someone else commented on on the JFK route

    There are only four airlines flying the route. – BA/AA/DL/VS.

    That’s FOUR so some competition should be welcomed.

  17. LCY isn’t a viable option, as the runway is too short to accommodate a westbound TATL nonstop as evidenced by the BA1/2 service, which was cut for good. While it’s great and exciting to see B6 enter the market, I don’t think they will succeed if traffic returns to pre-pandemic levels. They’ll just be another MaxJet, SilverJet, Eos, with a better plane and premium product, but competing in a very crowded field where corporate contracts rule. B6 will likely charge a discount for its MINT product, driving down the price for all for a time, but will get clobbered by BA/AA, DL/VS (if VS survives). On the other hand, perhaps B6 is leasing unused AA slots at LHR? Doubtful, but it’s possible. Either way, I’m not a fan of B6. Yes, the soft product is a cut above the rest in the US, but the flights are never on time and operational issues are frequent at B6.

  18. B6 has made themselves yet even more attractive for a takeover by DL. Fleets are compatible, both have large hubs at JFK and BOS. Sooner or later there will be a final round of airline consolidation and COVID is providing the impetus.

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