By Taylor Rains
JetBlue Strengthens its Northeast Presence With 35 New Routes
On Tuesday, JetBlue Airways announced a multi-country network expansion, including four new destinations, more nonstop options from LaGuardia and service to London, Honduras and Canada. With 35 new routes, the airline is recovering from the pandemic quickly and strengthening its powerful Northeast Alliance in Boston and New York.
JetBlue’s post-pandemic recovery has focused on enhancing its presence in the Northeast, specifically in Boston and New York. Tuesday’s network update continues the trend, with 11 new routes out of New York’s JFK, 10 from Newark, eight from LaGuardia and five from Boston.
Service from Boston and JFK to Kansas City and Milwaukee will launch on Mar. 27, 2022, and flights from both airports to San Antonio will start on Oct. 31, 2021.
JetBlue’s long-awaited England launch will occur on Aug. 11 with flights to London Heathrow, though the airline will also operate London Gatwick starting Sept. 29. Meanwhile, service from JFK to Peurto Vallarta will begin on Feb. 19, 2022.
LaGuardia Airport is also getting a boost with three new routes currently in service and five to launch by March 2022. Routes now flying include Charleston, Denver and Martha’s Vineyard, while new nonstop service to Jacksonville, Sarasota and Savannah will begin Oct. 31, 2021. In addition, flights to Nashville and New Orleans will start on Mar. 27, 2022.
The airline’s expansion out of Newark is 100% live, with flights currently operating to Aguadilla, Antigua, Cartegena, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Port-au-Prince, Puerto Plata, Seattle, St. Lucia and St. Thomas.
JetBlue has a handful of new routes awaiting a launch date, including Boston to both Asheville and Vancouver and JFK to Vancouver and San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
JetBlue is expanding into three countries with its latest network update: England, Honduras and Canada. Flights to Vancouver are set to begin in summer 2022, though tickets are not on sale yet. The service will run year-round from New York-JFK and seasonally from Boston.
It will be interesting to see how JetBlue performs in Canada, considering it is an extremely competitive and expensive market. The country’s three main gateway cities are Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, but high taxes and airport fees force higher fares, which can be problematic on price-sensitive routes. The alliances between United and Air Canada and Delta and WestJet are also strong and well-established, so it may be difficult for JetBlue to become a preferred carrier.
One market that JetBlue expects great success in is London. Operating a narrow-body jet across the Atlantic Ocean is not new considering the Boeing 757 made the hop for decades, but it is different from most international carriers. There is sometimes a misconception that wide-body aircraft are more comfortable than narrow-body, but that is not always true.
JetBlue’s Airbus A321LR aircraft has 138 seats, including 24 lay-flat mint seats. Core economy class seats will include a generous 32-inch pitch – which is more than the typical 31 inches competitors configure – and still come with all the bells and whistles of its domestic routes, like free inflight entertainment and wifi.
Mint makes up about 18% of the cabin, meaning nearly a fifth of the aircraft will be high-revenue fares. Looking at flights for August, JetBlue is selling roundtrip economy tickets from New York to London for around $650, which is slightly less than Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. However, its mint fares come to about $3,600 roundtrip – $700 more than British Airways’ business class for the same route on the exact dates.
JetBlue’s low fares and comfortable product should entice economy passengers to fly it, especially since other lower-cost options like Norwegian have left the market in the past years. However, it is still uncertain how JetBlue’s mint product will fare since it appears to price significantly higher than some legacy carriers. Nevertheless, more options are simply better, and JetBlue bets on its loyal customers choosing it over competitors.
The expansion in New York and Boston will strengthen JetBlue’s Northeast Alliance with American Airlines. The two have created a strong partnership, with JetBlue funneling domestic passengers onto American’s long-haul routes. Even before the pandemic, American was shrinking in New York, but its codeshare has fueled its expansion. In the past few months, American has added a handful of nonstop routes out JFK, including to Athens, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, Tel Aviv and New Delhi. JetBlue’s new service to JFK from cities like Kansas City, Milwaukee and San Antonio will add even more options for passengers continuing on American.
Meanwhile, JetBlue’s partnership is also putting pressure on Delta Air Lines in Boston. Over the weekend, Delta Air Lines announced six leisure-focused routes from Boston to the Caribbean set to begin this December. The move by Delta is two-fold. Firstly, it comes as travel bounces back and customers are planning their long-awaited beach vacations. Secondly, Boston is a new Delta hub as of 2019 and is part of its growth strategy. There, the carrier wants to expand its presence as it recovers from the pandemic, but the alliance between JetBlue and American is proving to be an obstacle.
Delta is retaliating against the Northeast Alliance by directly competing with JetBlue on all six Caribbean routes. It will also compete with American on four of the routes. The American-Delta rivalry is long-standing, and it will fuel the competition in Boston. Whether Delta will outpace the alliance is uncertain, but it’s exciting to see these turf-wars happening again after a long pandemic.