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JetBlue appears to secure Heathrow slots from 2 August

Writing for Flight Global, Pilar Wolfsteller reports that JetBlue Airways appears to have secured 270 slots at London’s Heathrow airport for the summer travel season, as it launches low-cost transatlantic narrow body service from the US East Coast. UK slot coordinator Airport Coordination Limited (ACL) released information on 26 March showing the slots were allocated to JetBlue, which looks to begin service to the UK during the week of 2 August.

Image - JetBlue

JetBlue did not respond to a request for comment or confirmation. Also, the airline’s website does not allow direct flights to be booked to London during that period.

JetBlue has been allocated an initial 14 slots weekly, according to ACL. That increases to 22 slots weekly on 13 September and 28 weekly from 20 September through the end of the summer season, on 30 October.

The airline had announced in early 2019 that it was looking to launch transatlantic service with its new fleet of Airbus A321LRs and, later, A321XLRs. In February, it revealed details about its premium Mint business class cabin, including 24 lie-flat seats, that would be used for the route (see below).

The ambitious London plans were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing precipitous decline in demand for air travel last year. As recently as late January, the carrier’s chief executive Robin Hayes said it was on track to launch transatlantic service in the third quarter. At the time, however, it was not yet clear to which airport, as it had not yet secured slots.

On 19 January, JetBlue complained to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) that the UK government was protecting airlines that controlled slots at Heathrow and Gatwick airports but were not using them,

While launching a new route to Europe at this time may look risky, the post-coronavirus reshuffling of the industry after the demise of Norwegian Air’s long-haul widebody service in January has left an opportunity in the market that JetBlue has indicated it would like to fill. The routes to Heathrow would likely originate at JetBlue’s home base of New York’s John F Kennedy International airport.

New business seat aimed at London flights

Image - Jet Blue

The airline recently unveiled new full-flat business seats ahead of its planned launch of flights to London later this year. The New York-based airline says the new seat, supplied by UK manufacturer Thompson Aero Seating, will initially be deployed in a 16-seat layout on a limited number of flights between JFK and Los Angeles in June.

Services to London are scheduled to begin during third quarter, with a 24-seat layout in the airline’s Mint premium section.

Thompson says the seat is a “fully bespoke” version of its Vantage Solo product, a further development of the original seat JetBlue introduced in 2014. That was the first full-flat seat for single-aisle aircraft, the manufacturer notes. Unlike the original Vantage version, the new seats are installed in a herringbone layout, providing each premium traveller a suite with direct aisle access, a 17in Thales Avant IFE screen, and a sliding suite door.

The two front-row seats – marketed by JetBlue as “Mint Studios” – feature additional amenities built into the monuments that separate the seats from the forward door entry and galley area. This includes self-service water and snack supplies, a 22-inch screen, additional fold-down tables and stowage areas, and an articulating guest seat “to create an expansive sleeping or lounging surface” with the folded-down main seat, Thompson says.

Created in co-operation with London-based design firm Acumen, the new seat is part of what JetBlue terms the “first complete redesign” of its Mint premium product.

“Mint was an idea to make premium travel across the US less stuffy and more affordable, and its performance has exceeded even our most optimistic expectations of going beyond New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco,” states JetBlue chief operating officer Joanna Geraghty. The product is now available on more than 30 routes today.

Thompson managing director Neil Taggart describes the seat arrangement as “ground-breaking” for narrowbodies. “From only a 33-inch seat pitch, it offers a fully horizontal flat bed with direct aisle access for every seat… offering an exclusive business-class seating experience normally only the reserve of a widebody cabin,” he states.

As for JetBlue’s long-awaited London routes, the carrier on 19 January complained to the US Department of Transportation that the UK government is protecting airlines that have slots at Heathrow and Gatwick airports but are not using them thus locking out new entrants. Despite this obstacle, JetBlue chief executive Robin Hayes has said the New York-based carrier has a “path” to begin operations at “more than one” London airport.

JetBlue are now one of New York John F Kennedy airport's biggest operators.

Tyler McDowell

© Pilar Wolfsteller / Flight Global 2021

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