JetBlue Launch Intensifies Boston-London Competition

Credit: JetBlue

JetBlue’s inaugural transatlantic flight from Boston (BOS) touched down at London Gatwick (LGW) on Aug. 5, becoming the US carrier’s third route to the UK.

The nonstop service, which will operate daily using Airbus A321LR aircraft, is the first of two new European routes JetBlue is opening from the Massachusetts city.

The second will start in just over a months’ time on Sept. 20, linking Boston with London Heathrow (LHR). Service will also be offered once a day using A321LRs.

“As Boston’s largest carrier, adding this nonstop service to Gatwick will only make us more relevant in our New England focus city and introduce JetBlue to a largely unserved market,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said.

Flights to Gatwick were originally slated to begin on July 19 and to Heathrow had been set for Aug. 22. However, the launch of each was pushed back because of Airbus aircraft delivery delays.

In the Boston-London market, JetBlue will be the sole operator of BOS-LGW flights but will face strong competition on a city-pair basis. Five other carriers currently offer scheduled BOS-LHR flights, with American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic providing daily service, and British Airways (BA) operating double-daily.

OAG Schedules Analyser data for the week commencing Aug. 8 reveals that BA will account for 41% of the 25,700 two-way weekly seats in the Boston-London market, followed by American with 14.9%. JetBlue will command about 7.7%.

However, once JetBlue’s Heathrow route begins, the hybrid carrier’s market share will increase to around 12.9% by week commencing Sept. 26, putting it marginally ahead of American as the second largest operator of capacity.

During October 2022, OAG data shows that there will be approximately 30,000 two-way weekly seats between Boston and London.

JetBlue’s new routes come amid a flurry of activity in the Boston-London market in recent years. After Scandinavian LCC Norwegian ended its LGW-BOS service in March 2020—and retreated from transatlantic routes altogether—American began flying BOS-LHR July 2021 after an eight-year hiatus. The oneworld alliance member had originally intended to start the route in March 2020 but the plans were delayed because of the pandemic.

In addition, United opened a BOS-LHR route in March 2022, flying daily with Boeing 767-300s.

The launch came as the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) ruled that BA and American must continue to offer four daily airport slots on three UK-US routes to competitors until March 2026, including Boston-London. The decision forms part of the competition regulator’s investigation into the Atlantic Joint Business Agreement, which involves the two oneworld alliance members.

JetBlue’s entrance to the transatlantic market began in August 2021 with flights from New York John F Kennedy (JFK) to Heathrow using slots that had become temporarily available as incumbent airlines reduced their schedules in response to pandemic travel restrictions. Service to Gatwick began the following month.

After winning approval to continue using the temporary Heathrow slots during the summer 2022 season, JetBlue has also received permanent slots for flights starting Oct. 29, saying the move guarantees its “long-term future at the iconic global hub.”

In addition, the airline plans to add a second daily flight between JFK and Gatwick starting Oct. 29, growing the number of frequencies between New York and London to three per day. Further European expansion is expected in 2023, with Paris set to join its network.

Earlier this week, New York-based JetBlue reported an adjusted net loss of $153 million in the second quarter of the year in spite of record Q2 revenues, up 16% from 2019 levels.

The company also recently signed a merger agreement with Spirit Airlines that would see it acquire the South Florida-based ULCC for $3.8 billion in cash.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.