Will JetBlue Be Welcoming Its International Partners Under Its Roof at JFK?

It’s earnings season, and that means it’s time for a slew of long analyst calls to talk about the events of the last quarter. I don’t listen to them myself, because I’d never get any work done if I did. Instead, I just read PlaneBusiness to get the details on what happened. This quarter, a couple of things on JetBlue’s call jumped out at me, and it got me thinking. It looks like JetBlue might have the tools to bring not only its own flights, but also those of partners under its own roof. That would be huge. Take a look at this quote from the earnings call:

And then if you go over to JFK, just a little update. Of course, terminal five, we’re close to celebrating four years of really just optimum performance through that facility. We’re very close with the Port Authority of extending terminal five. We call it T5 International internally. It’s on the footprint of the former terminal six. Terminal six is — was not landmarked. It was obviously, as you know, originally there to support National Airlines decades ago. It is now a tarmac, and we are very hopeful that we will be breaking ground on an international arrival facility similar to what you see happening over at terminal four. There’s a lot of growth happening at Kennedy. We believe that having all of our operation under one roof — and again we will have Hawaiian Airlines in here very shortly — is really exciting.

This might not be breaking news, but it’s the first time I’ve really thought about this. An international facility at Terminal 5 would do wonders, wouldn’t it? Of course, it would allow JetBlue’s own international arrivals to land at Terminal 5 instead of running a split operation today, but it can do much more than that.

JetBlue has already announced that its partner Hawaiian will begin flying out of T5 when it comes to JFK. Hawaiian, however, is the only partner that can do that right now. American is certainly too large and it has its own new facility there anyway. Cape Air, the only other domestic partner, doesn’t fly to JFK. All the other partners are international, though I do wonder if Aer Lingus could move today because of its pre-clearance. I’m not sure. But, if JetBlue builds a new international wing on the footprint of the old Terminal 6, that opens a whole new opportunity, and it comes at a good time. Here’s JetBlue’s corner of JFK:

JetBlue's Corner of JFK

Remember that Delta is actively working to take over a huge chunk of Terminal 4 as a replacement for Terminal 3. With that, all existing airlines in Terminal 4 will be pushed to the eastern concourse, I believe. And you know which airlines are included there?

Aer Lingus, El Al, Emirates, LOT, Singapore, South African, TAM, and Virgin Atlantic are all both partners with JetBlue and tenants in Terminal 4. Given the opportunity to make connections simple and move to a brand new facility, you would think that many of these would jump at the chance. Sure that might not include airlines like Virgin Atlantic, which have invested a significant amount of money in facilities, but others don’t quite have those deep ties.

That would create a monster of an opportunity. Keeping all those flights in the same terminal reduces minimum connecting times and allows airlines to schedule tighter connections. For an airline like El Al, it could help make connections more competitive by reducing total transit time. The shorter the travel time, the higher those flights show up in reservation system displays. That could be a big deal for some of these airlines, which might be at a disadvantage versus other airlines that can connect within the US on their own flights.

I haven’t seen a ton of information on this Terminal 5 expansion yet, but it seems like a great plan for both JetBlue and its partners.

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