16 NOVEMBER 2020


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Article from BTNews 16 NOVEMBER 2020

John Strickland interviews jetBlue CEO Robin Hayes

London here we come.

JetBlue is one of the top five US carriers, though not necessarily so well known on this side of the Atlantic.  That looks likely to change during 2021.  

John Strickland, Director JLS Consulting, a regular contributor to BTN, interviewed him (virtually) at World Travel Market last week.  Here he highlights the conversation.

The airline was founded in 1998 and has grown to a fleet of 260 aircraft and prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, was flying in excess of 40m passengers a year.

Hayes highlighted the strength of his airline’s position on the US East Coast.  It is New York’s “hometown airline”, flying out of all three airports and is similarly strong in Boston.

In our discussion we focussed extensively on jetBlue’s plans to operate to London from both New York and Boston later in 2021.  The market potential is huge although the arrival of jetBlue will not be welcomed by incumbents and exactly what state the market will be in following the crisis is far from clear.

Other airlines who have entered this market before, focussing purely on the lowest Economy prices or, at the other end of the spectrum, on Business Class only, have frequently failed.

JetBlue is confident that its strong East Coast market position and its well-regarded premium cabin Mint product will be key to its success. Mint already offers lie-flat bed service on US Trans Continental services and has proved highly successful for the airline.  Hayes believes it can undercut existing business cabin prices dramatically whilst still delivering profitability.

Another factor which will assist jetBlue is its planned deployment of new Airbus A321 NEO LRs.  These single aisle aircraft will offer only a modest amount of capacity compared to larger wide-bodies and combined with much greater engine efficiency, will dramatically reduce the risk for jetBlue.  Hayes is confident that were things not to work out as planned, the aircraft can easily be redeployed on other parts of the network.   

Choice of airport in London is also going to be a key factor and understandably, Hayes would not be drawn on this.  It seems likely that slots can be secured at Gatwick and Stansted but in the current climate I would not rule out Heathrow, the historical home of premium traffic, as a possibility.  There are challenges ahead but my experience fuels my belief that the pandemic could be just the catalyst jetBlue needs to make this a success.

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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

John Davidson, France

Because my family in the US is in Rochester, I was one of jetBlue's earliest passengers. I told one crew that I hoped they'd go transatlantic. The only more attractive airline for that service was OpenSkies, an all-biz service between Orly and Newark, I think. The crisis took it down, I think, but you'd need to check that.

Philip Zeus, London

Brave man Mr Hayes. Adding to the carriers across The Pond would not be easy at any time, but in 2021 is asking for problems. He can of course return the ‘planes to his fleet.

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