Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Before we review it: How JetBlue is shaking up transatlantic flying

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

We’ve covered JetBlue in considerable detail on HfP since it launched its London flights a few years ago, but before I review it (published tomorrow and Wednesday) I wanted to dig a little deeper into the transatlantic market and how JetBlue fits in.

After all, this is one of the busiest flight corridors in the world and home to the world’s only billion-dollar route (London to New York, with British Airways).

On the surface, pre-JetBlue, this seemed like a highly competitive market with flights between London and the US North East from six airlines: American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Norse Atlantic, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. There are many more options if you consider one-stop itineraries via other European hubs.

How JetBlue is shaking up transatlantic flying

In reality, however, London to New York is highly consolidated with multiple anti-trust approved Joint Ventures. This allows the co-ordination of flight schedules and – crucially – co-ordinated pricing and the pooling of revenues.

For all intents and purposes, AA / BA and Virgin / Delta operate as a single airline on transatlantic routes and hold a dominant market share.

Flying via Europe isn’t the answer either. Aer Lingus, Finnair and Iberia are part of the AA / BA joint venture. Air France, KLM and soon SAS are part of the Virgin / Delta JV. Lufthansa has a JV with United and Air Canada. You have far fewer choices than you think.

Over the decades, many airlines have tried to break into this market and claim their slice of the pie. Richard Branson succeeded in the 1980s with Virgin Atlantic, which has now become an incumbent.

More recently, Norwegian made a go of it in the 2010s with a low-cost model before the combined forces of an unreliable (but brand new) Boeing 787 fleet and covid knocked it out. It was replaced by an almost-identical Norse Atlantic. We’ve also seen multiple attempts to launch ‘all business class’ airlines on transatlantic routes – which failed because they didn’t have the frequency that the business market demands – as well as BA’s shuttered A318 service from London City.

JetBlue is the latest airline to have a go. Since its founding in 2000 the airline has gained a strong foothold in the US North East, becoming the largest airline to fly from Boston and the second largest from New York JFK behind Delta.

Part of JetBlue’s secret sauce has been straddling the divide between low cost carriers such as Frontier and Spirit and full service airlines such as United, Delta and American. This means offering unbundled no-frills economy tickets whilst also providing free wifi and a complimentary drinks service to all passengers, regardless of class.

Is it low cost or full service? In truth, it is neither.

How JetBlue is shaking up transatlantic flying

JetBlue dips its toe in the (Atlantic) ocean

Having become on the of the biggest domestic airlines in the North East, JetBlue set its sights on transatlantic expansion.

The airline’s fleet was already dominated by the Airbus A320 family, including the larger A321 variant. This meant that it was well placed to capitalise on the introduction of the A321LR (‘Long Range’) and A321XLR (‘eXtra Long Range’) models, both of which have the capacity to fly transatlantic despite being small single aisle aircraft.

Both of these aircraft are likely to have a transformative effect on aviation in the coming decade, something which I hope to expand on in a future article. Thanks to their smaller size, they are cheaper and more efficient to operate, bringing narrow-body economics to wide-body destinations.

How JetBlue is shaking up transatlantic flying

It is far easier to fill an A321LR than even the smallest of wide-bodies, and the break-even point is low. After all, London to New York is 75% further than, say, London to Larnaca (a route BA operates with a similar short-haul Airbus) but premium cabin fares are many multiples higher.

The new A321 models allow airlines to open up new direct routes or, for JetBlue, to launch into new markets without the big up-front costs of a wide-body operation.

Airlines also benefit from additional flexibility. Launching its first transatlantic flights to London was comparatively low-risk, given that JetBlue could simply repurpose its fleet of A321LRs if things didn’t go to plan.

The aircraft can also fly short haul routes in between long haul flights, further increasing the time the airline is in the air and earning money. Aer Lingus, for example, uses its A321LR fleet to fly from Dublin to UK/Europe and back in the gap between its early morning arrivals from the US and the evening departures back.

JetBlue received the first of 13 A321LRs in April 2021 and launched its first transatlantic flights to Europe later that year, starting with New York to London Heathrow. In the two-and-a-half years since then, JetBlue has launched a further 12 routes including to Amsterdam, Paris, Dublin and (later this month) Edinburgh.

How JetBlue is shaking up transatlantic flying

Over half of these are to the UK and Ireland, with JetBlue now offering the following flights:

From London Heathrow:

  • 2x daily to New York JFK
  • 1x daily to Boston

From London Gatwick:

  • 1x daily to New York JFK (summer only)
  • 1x daily to Boston (summer only)

From Dublin:

  • 1x daily to New York JFK
  • 1x daily to Boston (summer only)

From Edinburgh

  • 1x daily to New York JFK

But what’s JetBlue like in its premium Mint and Mint Suite seats? You can read our review of JetBlue’s Mint Suite here. Our review of the front-row Mint Studio is here.

PS. Whilst not in an airline alliance, you can earn Avios when flying JetBlue due to its partnership with Qatar Airways Privilege Club. You can read more in this article.

Comments (44)

  • paul says:

    Recently read a Review on another site and Mint looks fabulous – and I love the slippers instead of socks.

  • BBbetter says:

    Does JetBlue have a premium economy product? Or any plans to have one?

  • David W says:

    Unless you’re dong shuttle runs across the galley, why does the width of the airplane make any difference at all to your comfort as a passenger?

    I’ve flown one return journey on JetBlue, LGW-BOS, in economy, but I did pay for the extra legroom. It was very nice, significantly better than BA etc. In particular, the food was actually exceptional for an airplane. At the time I flew (2022) it was the cheapest option. I’d have used it again, but every time I’ve looked since it has been very significantly more expensive.

    • John says:

      In economy having 2 aisles feels less crowded to me, and with a 3-4-3 config you can choose an aisle seat which guarantees no more than one person needing to jump over you

      • Rhys says:

        A widebody aircraft feels much more spacious overall, of course.

        • tontoro says:

          As your colleague said on the first page, “Done it on Aer Lingus, makes no noticeable difference for a 6 hour flight in Business.”

      • HampshireHog says:

        Agreed if in economy or PE a wide body is far better, with numbers of pax the egress to loos, leg stretch etc is much better

        • Richie says:

          BTW The B6 A321LR has two toilets at the front for J passengers, there are only 24 Mint seats, that sounds better than a BA A350 when they have to close the front toilet to organise the meal service.

    • barracuda says:

      We can probably get scientific here – but from experience the widebodies do much better at dampening the effects of light to moderate turbulence -would hate being on a red-eye or a transatlantic trying to do work and being shaken/jolted every few minutes.

  • Super Secret Stuff says:

    I personally can’t wait for JetBlue to give Manchester a go!

  • Susan says:

    I booked a “mint” ( business class) return ticket to JFK last October. It was to be a short, 4 day exhausting trip. The return flight was at 10. 15 pm. At check in I was informed I had been bumped down to economy. I had a horrible journey in a seat and offered a choice of turkey sandwiches or a salad in place of the full dinner 🍽️ had been looking forward to. It took seven weeks to be refunded the difference in the fare and I’m not sure that was calculated accurately. By the time I received it I had discovered that Jet Blue has no phone or email which responds, no customer service and no complaints procedures. I also discovered a huge number of complaints online about similar experiences and cancelled flights. Never again Jet Blue. Dont risk it.

  • Mark says:

    A couple of thoughts from me and reflection on points here.

    If there is a route which the 321 was not designed for long-haul it is London to New York and I think Heathrow should think about this in terms of their pricing model.

    The Issue of single aisle/wide body is not material to most travellers – it’s all about space and seat size/capability.

    Worth noting the absence of a lounge is an issue for some. JetBlue probably need to reflect on this.

    I also wonder if Heathrow is the right airport – if they are not in the market of connecting traffic would they be better considering alternative airports and passing on savings to pax?

    If you were to scrutinise the passenger detail from all the established operators flights each day from LHR to JFK and EWR I would bet there are enough passengers who’ve travelled in from points of origin that would be much closer to places like STN, BRI or BHX to fill a A321 from each if there was a consistent offer from a recognised brand.

    • Richie says:

      United has B763 aircraft operating to LHR, should they be priced out by HAL?

  • James says:

    Good evening,

    I’m sorry to trouble this thread, but I was hoping to get some help, please.

    In March 2023, I signed up for the AMEX Business Gold Card offer. Unless I’m mistaken, that offer was to receive 40,000 MR points if a spend of GBP 6,000 was achieved, with a further 20,000 MR points for any amount spent between months 14 and 17. I have contacted AMEX via their Chat service as I haven’t received the 20,000 MR points for the additional spend that I firmly believe I am entitled to. Two of their agents previously confirmed to me in writing that I was due the points, but after speaking with a manager about this, he has now advised me that I am not entitled to the 20,000 points, which I seriously doubt, as I could have sworn blind I saw that offer both on this website and the AMEX site at the time. I don’t recall an offer of only 40,000 MR points overall for the AMEX Business Gold in March 2023. I thought I had taken a screenshot of the offer, but I don’t think I did now.

    Can anyone help and confirm if this was the offer in place in March 2023, please?

    Many thanks,

    James

    London, UK

    • Rob says:

      Hi James. The offer ran from 22 Feb to 31 March 2023. The deal was, as you say, 40k for spending £6k in 3 months with 20k for making a single purchase in months 14-17. Offer ended 31 March 2023. Month 14 therefore starts somewhere between 22 April 2024 and 31 May 2024 depending on the day you were accepted.

      I would give Amex at least 30 days from the day you made your transaction before trying to chase it up.

      It’s worth noting that Amex had never run an offer like this before and it’s totally possible that their IT is not yet working well.

  • James says:

    Hi Rob,

    Many thanks indeed for your reply, it’s much appreciated.

    Yes, I strongly suspect you’re correct on this. I’ll give it another few weeks and see if they post.

    Thanks for the advice.

    James

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please click here to read our data protection policy before submitting your comment

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.