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Is JetBlue launching Heathrow to New York flights in August?

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It looks like JetBlue will launch flights from the US to London Heathrow after all, despite being awarded slots at Stansted and Gatwick.

The US airline, which has been planning its first foray into transatlantic flying since 2019, has pursued coveted Heathrow slots for some time. In January, it filed a formal complaint about London slot access, arguing that it had been locked out of Gatwick and Heathrow.

JetBlue launching Heathrow

Will JetBlue launch flights to London Heathrow in August?

Whilst the slot filing in November 2020 suggested that JetBlue would initially start flying between Stansted and Boston and Gatwick and New York, it now appears that JetBlue has secured some slots at Heathrow.

How do we know this? A glitch on the airport website!

As spotted on Twitter by @lines_aviation, two JetBlue flights have appeared on Heathrow Airport’s terminal finder. Here is what happens when you look for flights from JFK on the 2nd August:

JetBlue Heathrow B61407

and

JetBlue Heathrow B61408

‘B6’ is JetBlue’s IATA airline code.

The fact that these flights have been loaded into Heathrow’s systems suggest that they are very likely to go ahead. Flights from a new airline wouldn’t accidentally find themselves on Heathrow’s terminal finder unless plans had advanced sufficiently. Someone has either pulled the trigger prematurely or wasn’t expecting anyone to find them.

JetBlue launching London Heathrow

What flights is JetBlue planning from Heathrow?

As you can see, it appears that JetBlue is planning for a daily service between Heathrow and New York:

  • B61407 (New York – London) would arrive into Heathrow at 10:10am.
  • B61408 (London – New York) would depart Heathrow at 6:10pm.

These flight numbers are currently being used for JetBlue flights between Fort Lauderdale and Las Vegas. If the Heathrow website is correct, they are either placeholders for the real flight numbers or they will be used instead. London Heathrow often commands ‘prestigious’ flight numbers, so it would not be surprising to see these change when an official announcement is made.

The timings are a little odd – the aircraft would be sitting on the tarmac for over eight hours. This would get expensive at a busy airport such as Heathrow where every minute on the ground is another minute of paying gate fees and parking charges. It is also expensive from a pure depreciation point of view on a hugely expensive aircraft.

The flights would operate from Terminal 2, which would make sense. JetBlue would likely use the Plaza Premium or Aer Lingus lounge, with whom it has a partnership from Ireland.

No Boston flights appear, which suggests that either the information is incomplete or JetBlue will operate these from Gatwick or Stansted as currently planned.

It would be extremely unlikely for JetBlue to launch just one daily flight to Heathrow if it expects to make any inroads into the current transatlantic duopoly.

JetBlue initially requested 48 weekly slot pairs at Heathrow, which would enable it to operate between six and seven flights daily. We are likely to see further frequencies – and potentially destinations – announced.

JetBlue London Heathrow launch

When will JetBlue make an official announcement?

In February, JetBlue unveiled the updated ‘Mint’ business class seat that would debut on transatlantic and select transcontinental flights this year.

JetBlue will need to start selling tickets soon if the flights are due to launch in the third quarter as currently seems to be the case. Unless it wants to fly empty planes it will need to open booking in the coming weeks or months, although the novelty value of a highly-regarded new carrier should help.

What isn’t clear is whether these slots have been awarded on a temporary basis – whilst many airlines have reduced their flying schedules from Heathrow – or permanently.

In other words, is JetBlue borrowing the slots from another airline that doesn’t need them in 2021 or has it secured them in their own right?

The bigger question is how much JetBlue is paying for them. Most recently, Air New Zealand was paid £20 million for its single daily take-off and landing slot. Has JetBlue coughed up a similar amount?

The plot thickens – hopefully we will get official confirmation soon ….

Comments (47)

  • marcokng says:

    The slots have likely been picked up whilst slot alleviation remains in place. I’d suspect that JetBlue, like many other new entrants, are hoping that some airlines don’t come back when slots are back on the 80/20 rule and they end up keeping them. Never the less, I’m excited to see JetBlue at Heathrow!

  • Jon L says:

    Could these be part of the 3 slot pairs that Norwegian handed back at Heathrow?

  • Sam G says:

    A few years ago now but I used to take ~6pm flights to NYC frequently and the Continental / Virgin flights were usually pretty quiet vs morning flights. UK side traffic, especially leisure usually prefers an earlier departure and they didn’t meet many connections on the US side for Continental. 10pm back seemed to be variable, later in the week busier with traffic returning to the UK who usually liked a later departure. US originating traffic I think preferred to get into London earlier in the day.

    BA was another story, the evening flight was always packed as it allowed for connections from across it’s network and acted as a nice “mop up” for misconnects etc.

    I’d guess these slots must somehow be permanent or at least for a couple of years, I think there would be a few options to lease from guys like Etihad, LOT, SAA, Malaysian Airlines, Thai, Vietnam airlines TAP, Tarom (no idea if the times match up!) etc who don’t foresee getting back to full capacity any time soon and/or are happy to go to Gatwick and take the slot income and LHR-US isn’t a competitive threat to them

  • bafan says:

    JetBlue are by far the best domestic carrier in the U.S. Very interested now to see pricing on the route.

    • Prins Polo says:

      Interesting. I find them all equally bad, but DL and B6 slightly less bad than others. Mint on transcon is an excellent product, but otherwise on B6 it’s always a falling apart and dirty A320. Maybe I’m unlucky. The 100% revenue-based loyalty program fails to excite me too.

      • bafan says:

        Most of my flights were on Embaers (I did JFK-IAD weekly for a while) or the JFK-LAX service on an A321. Love the snacks area you can just go and grab what you like from. I did JFK-AUS once on an A320 and…I agree with your summary.

  • Bent Rover says:

    Pricing wise what would be a rough estimate of a return to NYC in mint?

    • Rob says:

      In the US you pay $800 – $1,500 oneway for New York to LA. You need to factor in £166 of APD plus Heathrow costs etc. On that basis you would be looking at around £1,500 return at the bottom end, perhaps capping out at £3,000.

      BA sells for as little as £1,200 return in sales and occasionally BA Holidays does £1,200 to include a hotel.

      The real issue is how easy those £1,500 seats will be to get.

  • Aceman says:

    Literally sitting on a JetBlue flight right now (cun-las) lovely free wifi. And as they’re announcing the “special offer” of their credit card they said “can be issued for a variety of flights including our new non stop to London later this year”

    So it’s definitely on

    • bafan says:

      God I hate the U.S. carriers shilling cards when you’re trying to mind your own business.

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