Braving the pandemic and established competition, JetBlue launched transatlantic service from New York (JFK) to London Heathrow (LHR) on August 11. This week, the airline doubled down on its transatlantic bet, adding service from New York to London Gatwick (LGW).
The launch of the original flights from JFK to Heathrow were well-timed, as on August 2 fully vaccinated travelers were exempted from the UK’s quarantine requirements. (Negative PCR tests are still required.)
Still, JetBlue could only sell to the U.S. half of its potential market, as the Trump-era COVID-19 international travel ban remained in place. But Jeff Zients, the Biden Administration COVID-19 ‘czar,’ recently announced that fully vaccinated travelers from the European Union, the United Kingdom and other countries will be allowed to enter the United States at a yet-unspecified date in November.
(Full disclosure: I own stock in Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and Jet Blue.)
Anticipating the ending of the approximately 600-day travel ban, JetBlue added London Gatwick as a destination and launch pad for UK-to-USA flights. According to JetBlue, this makes them the only airline to fly nonstop between the U.S. and London Gatwick.
The Gatwick flights began on September 29. New York/Gatwick flights are scheduled to operate four times weekly in October, then daily onward from November. JetBlue says its multi-airport London strategy is timed “for the long-awaited easing of U.S. entry requirements for travelers from the U.K. and other European destinations.”
“With a 500% increase in JetBlue’s U.K. bookings following news of easing U.S. entry requirements for international travelers, it’s clear there is significant pent-up demand for travel between our two countries. Our Gatwick launch is well-timed to meet the growing number of customers returning to the skies,” said Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer of JetBlue.
JetBlue has also embarked on a partnership to jointly sell flights with American Airlines. The airline is reportedly revamping its website to show passengers what they get on the JetBlue side, like free Wi-Fi, live TV and other entertainment on a seatback screens, as well as its price-competitive business class product, Mint. The partnership was recently challenged by the Justice Department on competitive grounds.
On the London flights, JetBlue aircraft offer 24 Mint suites lie-flat private suites with a sliding door, as well 114 core (economy class) seats. JetBlue boasts of having the most legroom in coach. In addition to a free selection of soft drinks, coffee, tea, beer, wine and liquor, transatlantic passengers can also “build-their-own” complimentary on-board meals from New York-based restaurant group Dig.
JetBlue is operating both the Heathrow and Gatwick flights with its new Airbus A321LR aircraft. The A321LR has a range of up to 4,000 nautical miles, making transcontinental service possible in narrow-body twin-engine aircraft. Airbus says the A321LR delivers 30 percent fuel savings and a nearly 50 percent reduction in noise compared to previous generations of planes.
The airline also says it is offsetting the CO2 emissions from all flights to and from London throughout 2021. JetBlue is partnering with the Carbonfund.org Foundation, which purchases carbon offsets that support the Envira Amazonia Tropical Rainforest Conservation Project. The airline is already using sustainable aviation fuel at operations in Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO).
JetBlue’s new destination, Gatwick, is the second busiest U.K. airport and home to more than two dozen airlines. These include Ryanair, Turkish Airlines, Emirates, the new Europe-only Norwegian and Wizzair, flying to such warm weather destinations as Greece, Italy, Spain, and Malta. Americans or returning Europeans could take a JetBlue flight from New York to Gatwick, then fly on to the EU and beyond.
JetBlue will operate from the North Terminal, where passenger facilities include a variety of shops and restaurants, Kid Zones for those travelling with children, and special assistance services. Transportation options including direct train links to the City of London via Thameslink and to Brighton and other coastal communities via Southern Railway. JetBlue says the ground transportation options at Gatwick will help it serve travelers bound for or returning from U.K. destinations.
JetBlue will further expand transatlantic flights to London next year. Service from Boston Logan (BOS), where JetBlue is the leading airline, is to start in the summer of 2022.
As for now, Sheelagh Wylie, Chief Marketing Officer, Americas at VisitBritain, says of the new JetBlue flights, “With the festive holiday season around the corner and an exciting year ahead full of events such as the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Coventry City of Culture and many other annual festivals and shows, we are thrilled to welcome JetBlue to its second home in London Gatwick.”