JetBlue reduces transatlantic frequencies
JetBlue is expected to launch daily non-stop flights between New York JFK and London Heathrow starting August 11, and then a second daily frequency from September 29 (this flight is to London Gatwick rather than London Heathrow). When the airline put those flights back on sale in May, it likely did so in the hope that the reciprocal travel bans would be lifted by August:
- The United States does not admit non-Americans who have been in the United Kingdom in the last 14 days
- UK requires a minimum of five days of quarantine for anyone arriving from the US
- It was recently suggested that these bans are unlikely to end this summer.
So while transatlantic travel in general is picking up (mainly with Americans heading to European Union countries), demand between the United States and the United Kingdom remains very limited.
With that in mind, JetBlue provided an update on its plans for London:
- JetBlue still intends to launch flights between New York and London from August 11, 2021, as originally planned
- JetBlue intends to operate daily flights in August, but in September plans to operate only 4x weekly flights
- From now on, the second daily frequency is still expected to launch from September 29, 2021.
- No final decision has been made on what the frequencies will look like beyond September.
What I find strange about this reduction in service
I find it a bit odd that JetBlue is rushing forward on the London service in August, but then scaling back in September:
- I imagine JetBlue is seeing strong bookings for August, as a lot of people have booked JetBlue for the novelty (to try out the new Mint Studio and Mint Studio, as well as the new economy experience), and it’s still during the summer holidays. ‘summer ; I am one of those people because I booked a JetBlue Mint ticket
- That being said, realistically, most people will almost certainly cancel unless the quarantine requirement is lifted.
- While there is talk of the UK possibly starting to allow vaccinated travelers from countries like the US, there is nothing concrete, and I imagine JetBlue does not count there- on it, otherwise we would probably see the September schedule maintained for now
So I’m intrigued by JetBlue’s strategy here, and I’m not sure I’m following it. I only have one theory, and it’s a bit far-fetched. If JetBlue cancels flights to London, the airline will have to reimburse passengers for those flights in cash. During this time, if the airline maintains its schedule and passengers choose to cancel due to travel restrictions, travelers are only entitled to a credit towards a future JetBlue flight. In other words, it allows JetBlue to keep money from all August bookings, rather than having to issue refunds.
I can’t imagine that ultimately makes sense, since operating these transatlantic flights will not be cheap. On top of that, JetBlue has already undergone a major schedule change on the westbound flight, so many customers are already eligible for a cash refund if they wish.
I don’t understand what the other angle could be, however. I am surprised to see JetBlue not completely delaying service to London. Unless a travel ban is lifted, demand for this flight will be very, very limited.
At the end of the line
Despite the travel bans in place, JetBlue is moving forward with the launch of transatlantic flights in mid-August. Interestingly, the airline maintains daily flights in August and then plans to cut frequencies to 4 times a week in September.
Are you surprised to see JetBlue go ahead with its launch in London? And according to you, what is the logic to maintain frequencies in August but cut them in September?