One major issue has been figuring out which London-area airport to fly to, given how hard it can be to secure London Heathrow slots. There’s a positive update on that front for JetBlue, as the airline has managed to secure slots for London’s most coveted airport.
JetBlue has struggled with London slots
JetBlue has dealt with the same issue that so many airlines have with London service. The airline wants to break into the market, but Heathrow Airport is off limits to most airlines — the airport is heavily slot-controlled due to congestion, and slots have historically sold for tens of millions of dollars each.
In November 2020 we saw data on what airlines had been granted slots at London-area airports, and here’s what we learned about JetBlue:
- JetBlue was granted 28 weekly slots at Gatwick Airport, enough for 2x daily flights (the airline requested 56 weekly slots, so was granted 50% of them)
- JetBlue was granted 56 weekly slots at Stansted Airport, enough for 4x daily flights (the airline requested 56 weekly slot pairs, so was granted 100% of them)
- JetBlue requested 96 weekly slots at Heathrow, but was denied for all of them
As you can see, JetBlue has been in a real pickle, especially if we assume that the airline wants to operate up to four daily flights to London initially (two out of Boston, two out of New York):
- The airline could operate all flights to London Stansted, but that’s not ideal
- The airline could operate half of the flights out of London Gatwick and half of the flights out of London Stansted, but that’s also not ideal
JetBlue intends to start flying to London this summer
JetBlue has now secured London Heathrow slots
Airport Coordination Limited, which coordinates slots for London Heathrow Airport, has released an updated report on summer 2021 slots that have been awarded.
JetBlue has been awarded a total of 270 London Heathrow slots for the summer 2021 season. This includes:
- 180 slots being allocated for New York JFK service
- 90 slots being allocated for Boston service
Two slots are required per roundtrip (since each is for one takeoff or landing), and this is specific to the summer 2021 season, which goes through late October. To break this down further:
- As of August 2, 2021, JetBlue has been awarded 14 weekly slots
- As of September 13, 2021, JetBlue has been awarded an additional eight weekly slots, for a total of 22 weekly slots
- As of September 20, 2021, JetBlue has been awarded an additional six weekly slots, for a total of 28 weekly slots
In other words:
- As of August 2, 2021, JetBlue could fly daily between New York JFK and London Heathrow
- As of September 13, 2021, JetBlue could fly 4x weekly between Boston and London Heathrow, and daily as of September 20, 2021
JetBlue plans to operate out of Terminal 2 at London Heathrow.
JetBlue has secured slots for London Heathrow
This is fantastic news, but…
It’s great to see that JetBlue has secured London Heathrow slots, though as of now we have more questions than answers:
- How did JetBlue acquire these slots? Are these just temporary slots for this summer season?
- What is JetBlue’s plan beyond the summer? After all, there’s not much value in flying out of Heathrow for just a few months, and then having to change airports…
- The slots are enough for a total of two daily flights at most, so is that all that JetBlue is aiming for, or does the airline plan on offering additional service out of another London-area airport?
Like I said, the fact that JetBlue has secured any London Heathrow slots is awesome, one just has to wonder if this is actually sustainable, or if JetBlue is taking some sort of a foot in the door approach to building up a presence at Heathrow.
Will JetBlue be able to maintain London Heathrow service beyond summer?
We had a hint that this would happen
While this update is exciting, we had a clue that this was in the works. Eagle-eyed @IshrionA noted over a week ago that JetBlue’s website referenced London Heathrow in many ways that it hadn’t previously.
For example, when you searched for a flight on JetBlue’s website, London Heathrow showed up as an airport served by JetBlue, rather than an airport served by a partner airline (meanwhile London Gatwick showed as an airport served by a partner airline).
There were similar references throughout JetBlue’s website. For example, JetBlue’s route map page also referenced flights to London Heathrow as being operated by JetBlue.
The airline promptly removed these references from its website once people started noticing this.
Around the same time, @lines_aviation noted that when you went to the terminal finder on Heathrow’s website, JetBlue was listed as operating out of Terminal 2 as of August 2, 2021. According to this, JetBlue will operate a flight from New York that lands at 10:10AM, and departs again at 6:10PM.
This matches the information that we’re now getting.
JetBlue has managed to secure slots for London Heathrow for this summer, which is an exciting development, given that this has been the goal all along. We don’t actually know where these slots are coming from yet, though.
The next question is what the long term plan is here. It looks like the airline has secured these slots for summer, but what happens after that? Is JetBlue hoping for an extension of these slots, did the airline actually pay money for the slots, or will JetBlue change airports in the winter if it has to?
What do you make of the London Heathrow slots that JetBlue has secured?