JetBlue Will Fly To Vancouver (First Route To Canada)

Filed Under: JetBlue

Yesterday JetBlue and American announced a slew of new routes as part of their Northeast strategic alliance. I covered a couple of the interesting American changes, like American adding a New York to Delhi route, and American soon flying A321Ts between Boston and Los Angeles.

In this post I wanted to cover what I consider to be the most interesting addition on the JetBlue side — JetBlue will finally start flying to Canada!

JetBlue launching two routes to Vancouver

JetBlue has announced that it will fly to Canada for the first starting in the summer of 2022, with the launch of two new routes:

  • JetBlue will fly year-round between New York (JFK) and Vancouver (YVR)
  • JetBlue will fly seasonally between Boston (BOS) and Vancouver (YVR)

These routes are still over a year from launching, and as a result details are limited.

JetBlue doesn’t state one way or another whether the route will be operated by an aircraft configured with Mint. Generally that suggests to me that the airline doesn’t plan on offering Mint on the route, though it could also be so far in advance that JetBlue’s route planning department hasn’t yet decided.

JetBlue will launch flights to Vancouver

For that matter, the fact that this route is being announced over a year in advance makes me wonder if it will launch at all. I absolutely believe JetBlue intends to launch this route, but so much can change in the industry in a year, as we’ve learned over the past year. 😉

JetBlue’s new routes to Vancouver

The interesting New York to Vancouver market

The New York to Vancouver market is an interesting one, as it used to have two of North America’s coolest flights:

Cathay Pacific used to fly between New York and Vancouver

Nowadays Air Canada ordinarily flies year-round between Vancouver and Newark, and seasonally between Vancouver and Boston, so that will be very similar to JetBlue’s service in terms of destinations and general schedule. However, even those routes have been suspended due to the pandemic.

In the past Delta has also operated a seasonal New York to Vancouver route, but that’s not operating right now.

Why do some US airlines hesitate with Canada?

It’s interesting in general how hesitant major US airlines are with flying to Canada. While all of the “big three” US carriers fly to Canada, airlines like Southwest, JetBlue, Spirit, and Allegiant, all haven’t served Canada.

What’s the logic, given that Canada has some major markets? Based on what I’ve heard, the challenge airlines have with Canada service are as follows:

  • Flights to Canada have high taxes and airport fees, and since these airlines are largely going after discretionary travel that’s price sensitive, that can make the economics tough; for example, for a 180 USD one-way fare from Vancouver to Los Angeles, 74 USD of that is taxes and fees
  • Currency is an issue, since the CAD is significantly weaker than the USD, and therefore Canadian competitors in some cases have lower cost structures
  • Canada doesn’t have a huge population, and the country is spread out — the three biggest markets (Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver) already have significant competition, while other smaller markets may not be big enough for new point-to-point flights
  • There’s the general issue of getting in the market and staying in the market — the Canadian market is highly seasonal, and competing airlines would be up against very well established players, like the Air Canada and United partnership, and the Delta and WestJet partnership

We’ve repeatedly heard airline executives talk about looking into Canada service, so the lack of service isn’t because they just hadn’t thought about it. Clearly it’s a very challenging market, and the focus for many US airlines has instead been looking further south. For example, Spirit operates to all kinds of places in Central America (there are even four routes to San Pedro Sula, Honduras), but nothing to Canada, which should give you a sense of how challenging it is.

Airlines like Spirit have never tried offering Canada service

Bottom line

JetBlue will become the latest US airline to launch flights to Canada, which is a market that many US airlines have struggled with. In the summer of 2022, JetBlue is expected to launch flights from Boston and New York to Vancouver.

It’s cool to see JetBlue finally give Canada a try. It’s noteworthy that JetBlue is going for the transcon market where there aren’t currently many players, rather than going after the Northeast to Toronto market, which is well served, but also a much shorter flight.

What do you make of JetBlue finally launching flights to Canada?

  1. Worth noting AC’s YVR-EWR had been operated by a 787 and featured their North American Signature Service, so a higher level of business class. Who knows if it returns, though…

  2. Of course Spirit flies to San Pedro Sula with 4 routes. Spirit has big operations in communities such as Houston and the Southern Florida area where there are significant Honduran populations who travel frequently to / from their country of origin. Textbook VFR (visiting friends and relatives traffic). Spirit is an ULCC with very low operating costs, VFR markets are typically price sensitive highly elastic leisure travelers, so it’s no surprise that Spirit would go there. Canada is nothing like that. There’s no large VFR markets between any US cities/ destinations and Canada in the way there is between the US and several markets in Central America/ Caribbean. As you mention, Canada imposes HIGH taxes on airplane tickets (which many of these Central American countries do not), and traffic is highly seasonal to many Canadian markets. Sure there are some business markets, especially in the east, but it’s hard to break into those markets. And most importantly, the Canadian dollar is currently weak against the US $ (and was Pre-covid). That reduces demand from the Canadian side, and in general, the point of sale for most Canadian traffic is on the Canadian side. There’s a reason why even United, despite being able to work with Air Canada, withdrew service from a number of smaller Canadian markets over the years up until Covid – weakening demand on the Canadian side. So no, I’m not surprised JetBlue/ Spirit go to low yielding buy high volume destinations in Latin America but havent been tempted by CAnada up until now. And I share your concern – announcing this 1+ year in advance means that anything can happen.

  3. The new routes Jetblue and American introduced yesterday were interesting.

    Why and how is Jetblue growing its destinations at LGA?

    I thought that didn’t make much sense. Why doesn’t Jetblue add destinations at JFK rather than LGA. ….Yes yes I know ‘Lga is so convenient argument, but JFK has much more space for planes and customers and of course connectivity

  4. While not as “sexy” as an international route (to Canada), JetBlue just announced they will serve San Antonio Intl Airport with nonstop service between JFK and BOS. Delta has historically had a monopoly on the SAT-JFK route but JetBlue is pushing in and also taking on SAT-BOS as well. According to SAT Officials, there is more than 250,000 passengers traveling between SA & JFK/BOS annually so JetBlue saw quite a bit of opportunity.

  5. Allegiant serves Canada through Bellingham, Niagara Falls, and Plattsburgh, and JetBlue serves Canada through Buffalo. A huge number of the passengers at each of those airports are Canadians who drive across the border.

  6. A high percentage of the Canadian population lives within a 90 minute drive of the US border. Of their major metro areas, only Calgary and Edmonton lie beyond that zone. Therefore, if you need to get to the GTA (greater Toronto area – not the game) one could (before COVID) price flights there via BUF in addition to YYZ. BUF was often so much cheaper, that it made sense to rent a car and drive the 90 minutes around Lake Ontario – or less if its west of the city.

    So, yes, the idea of paying $800 for an economy ticket to cities that are no farther than a domestic flight does put a chill on this marketplace. There is no similar challenge in flying to northern Latin America – nor is there the competition of a quick cross-border drive.

  7. They’d be foolish not to put Mint on that YVR flight. So many people from the NY area would book premium cabins on the old Cathay flight for ski trips, which was perfectly timed. You would leave JFK 930PM and arrive in YVR around midnight, allowing a full day of skiing the next day, and the return was a redeye so you’d get a full day in on the slopes before heading back to Vancouver. Back in JFK for work in the morning. JetBlue should really try to replicate that schedule.

  8. @sharon:

    If you looked at the routes, you’d realize they want to compete directly with DL out of LGA (DL dominates LGA and has strong pricing power). SAV, BNA, MSY, PWM are all very high priced routes that DL runs and manages to squeeze out of NYers.

    Two years ago I had to fly LGA-SAV on DL and SAV-JFK on JB – the roundtrip on DL was over $400. Check out DL’s fares LGA-CLE – you will pay more for that one hour flight than a transcon.

  9. A small counterpoint/correction to offer:

    “Flights to Canada have high taxes and airport fees, and since these airlines are largely going after discretionary travel that’s price sensitive, that can make the economics tough; for example, for a 180 USD one-way fare from Vancouver to Los Angeles, 74 USD of that is taxes and fees”

    It’s actually flights *from* Canada to the USA that have high taxes and fees, as your example shows. As you point out, there are about 74USD of taxes for a 180USD ticket for a YVR-LAX one way ticket — but about half of that amount comes from US-imposed taxation: usually about $4 for a US APHIS fee; about $6 for customs; $7 for immigration; about $19 for int’l arrivals tax. (Of the other taxes, it’s the usual ones for Canadian domestic: $5-10 for security (largely analogous to US fees), and $20-30 for airport improvement fees, which none of us like, but at least our airports are kept modern). Going the other way, on flights *to* Canada like LAX-YVR there are zero taxes imposed by the Canadian government for crossing the border. The only taxes are the ones the US gov’t charges for any kind of airline travel — so it’s inaccurate to suggest that “flights to Canada have high taxes and airport fees,” as you did.

    The formulation above rather makes it sound as if it’s the Canadian taxation regime that’s the problem here, and I would counter that it is not. The reason we Canadians typically drive to Bellingham, Buffalo or Burlington has more to do with avoiding US taxes imposed by flying into the US (but not collected at a land crossing), rather than looking to get around Canadian charges.

  10. The other big reason why American carriers don’t have significant flights to Canada is the joint ventures/codeshare agreements for Canada/US flights with the Canadian carriers.

    Air Canada and WestJet offer a large amount of feeder traffic to UA and DL hubs

  11. I agree with GDL about the taxes and fees. I had assumed that flights in/from Canada were often relatively expensive due to high Canadian taxes and fees, because that’s what everyone says. But then one day I looked at the fee breakdown of my ticket from YVR to somewhere in the U.S. and realized that much of the cost was from fees imposed by the U.S.

    I think the pricing likely has more to do with competition, or lack thereof. When airlines decide to compete here, there can be some incredible deals (especially for overseas travel) out of CDN airports. JetBlue should help in this regard, at least for certain destinations. I’m just hoping they have a good schedule and Mint service to JFK. It was sad to see the CX route end, as that was an AS Mileage Plan sweet spot for premium transcon awards.

  12. This is good news for those who live in Vancouver. For the rest of us we have the problem of a feeder system that is not linked to Jet Blue and a winter mountain range travel is fierce and daunting. I hope they do have flights with Mint.

    AS serves Kelowna (cancelled during Pandemic) with Q400 connecting in SEA. This is OK as it is less than an hour flight and en-route to Mexico one hardly notices it. AS has “first class” out of YVR which is approximately premium economy on some of their YVR-SEA routes. But Mint YVR-Boston would be very attractive.

    United flew LAX-YLW (Kelowna) or SFO-YLW for a couple of years ago but unfortunately gave up the route. Kelowna’s Big White is an internationally recognized for it’s excellent Powder (but only in certain circles) and the Okanagan Valley wines are very highly respected (but again a closely held secret) so two seasons would justify more traffic. Our newly expanded airport is also world class. So once again I assume that the deterrent is the Canadian Tax system which is not about to get any better. With out dollar unreasonably strong against the US dollar at the moment even the “Canadian Peso” effect has no benefit.

    Interesting news. Recently YVR picked up Turkish flights and SEA picked up Qatar so the number of international options is expanding as some of the Asian carriers are decreasing service.

    When we flew Concorde LHR-JFK our link to YVR was on Cathay First. Unfortunately the flight departed JFK at 1 AM or so and thus we were a little tired but certainly enjoyed one of our best experiences ever. Sadly cancelled.

  13. Even before the pandemic I was always surprised by how few nonstop flights there are between New York and Vancouver. After all they are major costal cities and the fact that they can’t sustain a year-round flight from LGA/JFK just seems odd.

  14. The A220 is a perfect aircraft for this route. Upgauge to Mint seasonally, like they do for the Caribbean. Boston Vancouver has lots of medical and academic traffic.

  15. @GDL @JohnG I have never looked at the fee structures, but it is consistently cheaper to book 2 one-way tickets than a round-trip, at least on the route I usually fly (SFO-YVR). Same flight. Same fare basis. United, Air Canada and WestJet. The difference is sometimes close to 10% of the total.

    My theory is that some fees are levied on the total amount of the ticket, not the segment. If any of you had done the research, I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

  16. I’ve always had difficulty finding good direct flights between new york and YVR. This would be a no brainer for me whenever I need to go to vancouver especially with mint. Even the decent direct flights that I can find, their 1st class is very meh.

  17. I find it fascinating that B6 is starting with Western Canada much like AS destinations in Canada. I do wonder if they’ll struggle with the limitations on what sorts of connecting traffic they can rope into this route though.

    Makes me think back to when AA and WS had a codeshare agreement, but it never felt super thought-out (example: when US Airways merged with AA, they never bothered setting up reasonably priced connections through PHX despite the large number of destinations WestJet served from that airport).

    @Azamaraal YLW and YYJ are definitely awkward airports: close enough to YVR that they are easy to overlook, but not close enough to easily travel between…

  18. As a Canadian, I absolutely detest the monopoly of star alliance between Air Canada and United hubs. Flights between Toronto and San Francisco is just bloody expensive. Easily twice of YYZ to LAX, and triple/quadruple that of NYC- SFO. I can imagine that is the case with YVR to NYC too.

    I welcome all competition into the market!

    On a side note, for someone that does not own a car. Buffalo Airport is just impossible to get to by public transit and certainly not worth the trip.

  19. @AK not quite sure if you are agreeing or disagreeing. A wine “expert” from the US once dissed Canada by stating ‘Canada does not make wine’ or something similar. If you know anything about wines you would know that the Okanagan Valley produces some of the finest wines in the world at much less than world prices in most cases.

    @lee ‘Back in the day’ it used to be a very good option to rent a car in Vancouver and drive to Seattle to save on airfare. If you don’t own a car because you don’t drive I can understand your comment. With the border currently closed I can also understand your comment. Now that I live in Kelowna it is only reasonable to drive to SEATAC in the summer months as driving through the mountains to Seattle in the winter is just as bad as driving to Vancouver. Can’t wait for AS to start flying to YLW again after we recover and can travel.

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