Low-cost US carrier JetBlue still expects to launch flights to London and other destinations in Europe next summer.
CEO Robin Hayes promised the airline would ‘disrupt’ the transatlantic market by offering ‘a much cheaper way of flying between the UK and the US’.
During a one-to-one interview with aviation analyst John Strickland at WTM Virtual, Hayes said: “London is a huge market. The largest market out of New York and Boston that we don’t fly to.”
He added: “Next summer there will be pent-up demand. People are desperate to go away, desperate to see family, but just want to wait a bit longer. All leisure travel will be largely recovered by the end of 2021. I think launching flights to London next summer, probably Q3, is the perfect time to introduce all of my friends in the UK and Europe to JetBlue.
“We’re looking forward to showing what we’ve got.”
He added JetBlue will have interline partnerships to feed more traffic in through Europe.
Hayes said he is not put off by the fact other carriers, including start-ups such as Zoom, which operated between 2006 and 2008, have entered the low-cost transatlantic space but failed to make their ventures profitable.
“What they didn’t have was the brand in the market already. They certainly didn’t have customer loyalty. No-one knew about them. We have millions of customers, a frequent flyer programme, corporate accounts.
“We thought a lot about this and we’re 100% confident. But if it doesn’t work, we will fly somewhere else.
“The other benefit is the seasonality of our business. I see a world where we have a number of all-year-round and a number of seasonal flights and in the winter will point the aircraft to the Caribbean where we can soak up a lot of capacity.”
He said JetBlue’s transatlantic service would be a ‘significant enhancement on what we already offer’. He wouldn’t talk about transatlantic prices, but said when the carrier launched JFK to Los Angeles flights in 2014, premium prices started at US$599, compared to UK$2,000 being charged by rivals.
It’s understood JetBlue has applied for slots at Gatwick and Stansted and there were reports it had recently applied for Heathrow slots.
But when Strickland suggested: “It seems to me if you wanted Heathrow you might be able to get all three,” Hayes said: “We will make an announcement when we are ready to put the flights on sale.
“We are very comfortable we have a path into more than one London airport and excited about what we want to do. Some of the other London airports have been underserved to the US.”
The airline’s recently signed partnership with American Airlines has given JetBlue access to more slots in New York.
“It’s an incredible opportunity for us and for American, but the real winners are the consumers,” he added.