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JetBlue files a formal complaint about London airport slot access

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US airline JetBlue has recently announced plans to fly to the East Coast from Gatwick and Stansted. It will use a single-aisle Airbus A321LR, a new version of the A321 series with an extended range.

JetBlue has clearly not got its preferred slots. The airline has filed a complaint with the US Department of Transportation claiming that it is being locked out of Heathrow and Gatwick.

Oddly, the complaint is aimed at the UK Government and not British Airways, Virgin Atlantic or any other slot holder. This is despite the fact that it is an EU agreement, not a UK one, which has allowed Virgin Atlantic to retain its Gatwick slots despite abandoning the airport and British Airways to retain its slots despite flying just a handful of weekly services.

The complaint states:

“At the same time, carriers like JetBlue, poised to enter the transatlantic market and disrupt the status quo and fulfill a crucial need for lowcost carrier transatlantic service, are unable to sufficiently secure LHR slots or consistently timed LGW slots because of the fiction that carriers are going to return to the pre-COVID-19 status quo. They are not, and the UK Government needs to address this reality immediately.”

JetBlue is hoping to get the US Department of Transportation to put pressure on the UK Government to meet its ‘open skies’ obligations, and if not to potentially take retalitary action against UK interests unless access to Heathrow, and improved access to Gatwick, is granted.

Comments (40)

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  • Oh! Matron! says:

    “UK Government to meet its ‘open skies’ obligations”

    So, finger in the air: Do we expect airlines to have to give slots back, given that many will be a shade of their former self, or will be see a bunch of new entrants to the Trans Atlantic Route, a la Jet Blue, “leasing” slots from airlines, assuming that airlines can keep hold of them long enough?

    Because it really isn’t an “open sky” if the only airport you can land at is London Farnborough!

    • Rob says:

      Virgin’s plan is to lease out its slots to avoid losing them in case it wants them back in 10 years – but clearly it won’t lease them to JetBlue. I think they would rather subsidise a few more Loganair flights from the regions than do that.

      Of course, this is what JetBlue is complaining about.

      • Mikeact says:

        I thought JB wanted to fly Gatwick and Stansted. Where does Heathrow come into it ? And do we assume slots are sorted at Stansted?

        • ChrisC says:

          They want LHR! And that’s why they are complaining.

          LGW and STN are certainly not their first choice(s) but they are taking what slots they can get.

          • Mikeact says:

            Not sure when they changed their mind…everything I’ve been following in the US media have only referred to Gatwick…and Stansted.

          • tony says:

            @mikeact – according to the data from ACL dated November 2020, they applied for 42 slot pairs at LHR for Summer 21 and were given none. They applied for 28 at Gatwick and were granted 14, so presumably requested STN to top up. But farcical they are having to split ops when airports stand empty.

          • kitten says:

            STN is a cesspit of an airport. A really horrible experience dominated by Ryanair.

            Gatwick became a good airport but this was still more known to cognoscenti and it may go back to being worse again if not enough volume returns.

            I think JetBlue should have the right in current foreseeable usage, to demand either excellent slot timing and optimal set of days of the week to fly from Gatwick, or not the worst slots at Heathrow.

            Funnily enough I think there’s a lot of wealthier people currently using Luton that could fill planes to the USA from that airport sooner than from Stansted.

          • Doug M says:

            @kitten. Are you old enough to remember when STN opened. It really was a rather nice experience. The natural flow was front to rear where you could see the planes. Then they converted it into a cardboard pop-up retail centre. Agree it is now a pit I avoid if possible.

          • Tony says:

            @Doug M I am old enough to remember flying from STN when the terminal was on the other side of the runway! The car park cost £1. Yep. It was the same price for an hour, day or week.

            Then in the late 90’s I became a regular on the KLMUK/Gill Air flight to NCL. Have managed to avoid STN since maybe 2004 and don’t miss it.

          • kitten says:

            Doug M : even though I’m only 21 I do remember Stansted before it became a public airport.

            It was a military airport with bh far the biggest airfield of any of thr London airports. A very very few charter flights used to land there. My job was to accompany the driver on a 54-seater coach from Euston to Stansted, no M11 then so it took over 2 hours to get there, meet the incoming charter from Vienna at about 9.30pm and escort them to Euston hotel then run a helpdesk for 3 days and take them back to STN on the coach!

            Other than the disastrous location I always said what a wonderful airport it would be if developed. A few years later it became a proper civil airport and package-level travel became individual – we all flew Ryanair.

      • Track says:

        And rightly so complaining.

        Occupying slots with ‘fake’ flights to Scottish Isles to prevent the low cost Transatlantic flights for the public…

        This is after Norwegian withdrawal.

        Protect Virgin Atlantic — OK, but not at the cost of Gatwick becoming regional airport and zombie business..

        • Michael Jennings says:

          Yes, absolutely. If the slots are not being used they should be given to airlines who are able and willing to use them.

          Similarly, it should be made much easier for WizzAir to get the slots to expand its Gatwick operation as it clearly wants to.

        • Doug M says:

          I’m not sure JetBlue are low cost. They’re competitive, but in my limited experience of flying them in the USA they’re just a very nice experience. I think they’re more likely to win business on customer service than price.

  • John Murray says:

    Despite Virgin and now Aer Linus already doing it, I’m convinced there’s still a viable untapped market for transatlantic routes to/from areas outside the Home Counties.

    With the new extended range single-aisle aircraft surely Birmingham or Glasgow could become potential routes for the likes of Jet Blue?

    • marcw says:

      Didn’t AA and United operate from these airports with single-aisle 757… but had to retreat?

      • bafan says:

        Yes, the U.S. carriers always end up retreating from everywhere but LHR / EDI. Just isn’t enough in other areas to sustain the routes. If there was the routes would be operated. Not really rocket science.

    • Gumshoe says:

      Unlikely. JetBlue’s customer base is predominantly American. And relatively few Americans want to go to Birmingham or Glasgow.

      • tony says:

        Lots of Americans want to go to Scotland. It’s their biggest overseas tourist market.

        • Stu N says:

          Before Covid there were multiple direct flights a day from Edinburgh and Glasgow to the US in summer. United did Newark and Chicago, Delta did JFK and AA did JFK and Philadelphia if I remember correctly. Most ran 5 or more days a week – all on 757s.

          There were 1 or 2 a day year round.

          The demand was there and will be again in time.

          • Andrew says:


            United to DC from EDI.
            Virgin to Orlando from Glasgow
            Delta to Boston from EDI

            And for Canada

            Air Canada Rouge did Toronto from EDI
            Westjet from GLA to Halifax.
            Air Transat to Toronto from GLA

            I flew twice on Delta to Boston on 2019, flights were very well loaded.

        • kitten says:

          Good point. EDI might do well for JetBlue even though from the passenger point of view, the airport sounds to have taken some strange decisions.

      • Nick_C says:

        JetBlue’s customer base is predominantly American because currently they are currently mainly flying domestic routes, holiday routes to the Caribbean, and a few routes in Central America.

        Once they start flying to Europe, they can expect to pick up Europeans wanting to fly transatlantic.

        Plenty of Brits use Air Transat to fly to Canada (god help them). In in contrast to Air Transat, Jet Blue has an excellent reputation.

        • Fenny says:

          I have used JetBlue many times in the US and would love to be able to use them to & from the US. Even better if they flew via Birmingham.

    • Terri says:

      The Bhx flights were priced much higher than from London. For a three figure £ saving per passenger it was worth 90 minutes in the car with a greater choice of flight times and destinations.

      • Fenny says:

        If there’s more than 1 of you, it may be. I can get to BHX by train from my local station in about 40 minutes and don’t have to pay a fortune to park at LHR.

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    It is a bizarre one:

    Americans seem to like to fly into London and take a one-way car rental to Scotland and then fly back to London, rather than vice versa.

    They don’t even fly into London and fly home from Scotland.

    Hence the £1 one way car hire from Scotland to London in the summer!

    I suppose it shows London is still the primary purpose of the visit. However wonderful Scotland is!

    • BuildBackBetter says:

      It’s likely they want to do some of the tourism in london before or after visiting Scotland / other places.
      Also likely is they can pick their choice of airline, seat, time etc that suits them.

      • Stu N says:

        A lot of US visitors will do a road trip – start in London then Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, York, Edinburgh is pretty normal itinerary. Then cut about the Highlands for a few days at the end. Distances don’t bother most American visitors and many would rather drive than use public transport.

        • Anna says:

          They’re often shocked by how congested our roads are, though – and I’m always amazed how much distance you can cover driving in the US over a few days!

          • ChrisBCN says:

            There speaks somebody who has never driven around Los Angeles at any time of the day…

          • Doug M says:

            Generalisations don’t work with driving in the US. California is horrendously congested, the LA area is particular bad. However Wyoming is rather pleasant, Trump bumper stickers aside.

          • Fenny says:

            A friend & I drove from upstate NY to Atlanta in a day. Another friend & I sat in traffic in LA for a day.

          • The Savage Squirrel says:

            I once drove from Mammoth in Yellowstone to Las Vegas in a day (900+ miles). To be honest it was pleasant and easy. Of course it’s 90% empty desert in between. We were only intending to get to Salt Lake, but got there early …. already visited a couple of times and would you rather spend a night in Salt Lake City, or in Vegas :D.

          • Brian W says:

            @ChrisBCN, your desire to undermine @Anna is getting boring. Your posts are now pedantic. So what if she hasn’t driven in LA, she’s is clearly giving her opinion on driving in many other parts of one of the largest continents in the world and, as I have experienced in the US, she is spot on. I’ve also driven in LA by the way and disagree with you. At times you’re right, but you can fly through LA at certain times so more fool you for being blinkered and intent on making her input look fruitless.

            Grow up @ChrisBCN.

            Try and concentrate on being informative in your posting going forward. Having a difference of opinion to @Anna is irrelevant but its so obvious you jump on her comments purposely now and its quickly becoming pathetic,

          • Stu N says:

            We did Moab in Utah to Las Vegas in a day a few years ago. First 400 miles in 5 hours drafting a truck. The last 30 miles took another hour and a half….

  • Graeme says:

    Just bought MAN-LAX with Virgin for £555 return in premium with the promo code for the end of September. Thanks to Rob for the status match article, now FC Gold, so along with the double points/miles promo should be about 25,000 miles.

  • The Original Nick. says:

    Good result Graeme

  • M says:

    Why can’t they buy Norwegian’s slots? Surely they want the money. Or are B6 holding out and fighting for free slots?

  • LJ says:

    The problem with the Virgin cards is that you can from end January 2021 only use an App on phone for any transaction/investigation into account. In other words they are stopping you having online banking on a laptop/computer to look at statements etcetera! For this reason I have closed my Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard; I am not someone who chooses to do banking on my phone. Virgin Atlantic need to know people are not happy with them taking away this basic essential.

  • LJ says:

    I also later on had a Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard, the card I paid £140 pa for, and again we will only be able to access statements/ transactions from a phone from end January 2021. Please, if you agree let Virgin know in as many ways as possible that you still want online banking. I liked my card and service from Virgin, but am very disappointed with this new administration change.

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