JetBlue Airways has made the grade for takeoff to the UK this summer with the official green light for its planned service to London, a first step toward larger global ambitions.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority granted the New York-based carrier a scheduled foreign carrier permit on Monday, a key regulatory hurdle ahead of starting flights. JetBlue plans to begin flights to London from both Boston and New York by September.
“We are delighted to have received regulatory approval from the Civil Aviation Authority,” said JetBlue Spokesperson Philip Stewart. “This brings us one step closer to launching our new JetBlue transatlantic service.”
Sign off from UK authorities marks JetBlue’s turn onto the home stretch for its long-planned London service. First unveiled in 2019, the airline had to check numerous boxes to get there, from acquiring new planes — the Airbus A321LR — to getting regulatory sign off and securing takeoff and landing rights at one of London’s busy airports. Only the final one remains a question mark five months out from JetBlue’s target launch.
London airports slot coordinator Airport Coordination Limited (ACL) has allocated JetBlue enough takeoff and landing rights at London Heathrow, according to the latest data for the Summer 2021 season that ends in October. ACL shows the carrier beginning a daily flight to Heathrow the week of August 2, and expanding to two daily flights on during the week of September 13. The data does not show the timing of the slots.
The ACL data is not tantamount to a set schedule and airlines are able to swap, request or decline any slots. For example in 2020, JetBlue was allocated slots at London’s Gatwick and Stansted airports that it declined.
In addition, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes has said that the target third quarter launch is subject to an easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions between the U.S. and UK. Something that has yet to occur.
The A321LR jets that JetBlue will fly to London are outfitted with just 138 seats — a light configuration for a transatlantic flight — including 24 lie-flat seats in its posh Mint premium cabin. The carrier is betting on its premium product to woo flyers away from the legacy airlines that dominate the U.S.-London market, including American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic Airways. From Boston, United Airlines also plans to enter the fray this summer.
“When we take our product, when we take our customer base already that is very keen for us to do this, and we take low fares — we think that’s a winning combination,” said Hayes on JetBlue’s London ambitions at a J.P. Morgan event in March. “We think that’s going to ramp up very quickly.”
JetBlue’s European ambitions do not end in the British isles. With orders for 26 long-range A321neos — both A321LRs and A321XLRs — the airline can serve cities as far east as Berlin and Rome from its Boston and New York gateways. JetBlue plans to fly three A321LRs by year-end, with the balance of its long-range jets arriving through the middle of the decade.
Updated with comment from JetBlue.