JetBlue’s Interest in Europe is No Surprise

Take a look at this route map, via Great Circle Mapper (he’s also made this the featured map for today):
JetBlue Boston Hub

If you were going to build a hub, it wouldn’t look like this. Everything points to the south and west. As you may have guessed already, this is JetBlue’s Boston focus city. Many have speculated for years that JetBlue would fly to Europe, and the airline itself has expressed an interest. Europe might seem like a big jump and a change in business plan, but it’s really not that much different thanks to new aircraft technology. And just looking at a Boston route map shows why JetBlue is interested. Doesn’t this look better?

JetBlue Boston Hub Europe

Slap on the top 20 airports in Europe (give or take) and now you’ve got something. But it’s not like this is a simple thing. JetBlue isn’t actually big on connecting passengers, at least not on its own airplanes. And there’s the matter of finding an airplane that could fly these routes. It would be a new fleet type, and probably one with a whole lot more seats to fill. Boston might not be able to support that on anything more than a few routes. But things have changed.

Regarding connecting passengers, JetBlue may not be big on connections on its own flights, but it has established a ton of partnerships with international carriers like Aer Lingus and Emirates to feed people from its own flights to those partners. This strategy has been good for JetBlue in Boston and in its other focus cities. It has also given JetBlue a taste of what it could do with European flights of its own.

Then there’s the aircraft issue. JetBlue’s A320s might make it to Ireland on a good day, but that’s not really a reliable strategy. Until recent times, JetBlue has only had one option: get a new aircraft type. Since Boston is so close to Europe (Dublin is only a couple hundred miles further than San Francisco), the 757 could have served a lot of markets from there. But JetBlue wasn’t about to get in the business of buying old airplanes and having to do major work on them. So it was pretty much get a widebody or forget about it.

But the introduction of a new generation of narrowbodies has changed the game. JetBlue has a bunch of A321neo aircraft on order (among others. If it wants, it can convert some of those to the A321LR, an airplane that could get JetBlue well into the heart of Europe from Boston. That is going to make it far easier for JetBlue to launch service to Europe with much greater ease.

Those may have been the two big issues, but there are others. What about the onboard product? That WAS an issue when JetBlue was a single-cabin airline. But frankly, take the Mint product and put it on Europe? That would easily be a highly competitive product with what’s in the market today. The coach product JetBlue offers would already be one of the best flying. Product is not an issue.

There are a host of other issues that come with flying internationally. Just ask Southwest. It strangely decided it needed to buy a whole different airline (AirTran) to figure out how to do it. But let’s remember that JetBlue already does this today down in the Caribbean and Latin America. Adding Europe won’t be any more challenging than what the airline has already done.

What JetBlue wants to do is take advantage of Boston’s natural geography in the same way Copa has taken advantage in Panama and Emirates in Dubai. Maybe the best examples are Icelandair and Wow in Iceland, a country that’s just slightly better-located from an aircraft-capability perspective than Boston. But Boston is a much bigger local market and should be able to support flights to more places at lower fares.

Today JetBlue has 140 flights a day from Boston but it has plans to raise that to 200. The bigger it gets, the more it will likely want to rely on connections to help build frequencies. And while some international partners can offer limited connectivity today, that’s nothing compared to what JetBlue would do on its own.

This could be part of the reason Delta is watching Boston so closely. JetBlue is going to end up in Europe, and JetBlue could create an operation there that’s far more formidable than what it’s already built.

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39 Comments on "JetBlue’s Interest in Europe is No Surprise"

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Jim
Guest

I’m not sure if there is room for another carrier in the US-Europe market. It’s a highly competitive market already, and it’s dominated by alliances, many of which have immunized joint ventures. JetBlue is not really a low-cost carrier anymore, so it’s not as if its tickets are going to be much cheaper. This is a mature market, and it’s hard for a newcomer to enter such a market without something significantly better than what the established players are offering.

Oliver
Guest

Was the US market not a mature market when B6 entered it?

Jim
Guest

It wasn’t as consolidated as it is today. B6 launched in 2000, at which point there were around twice as many major airlines as there are now. It was a lot easier for a newcomer to break in.

Bob
Guest

B6 has some of the lowest costs in the industry so it really is a low cost carrier. The management team seems to know what they are doing as they have performed well financially the last few years. Any European destinations are still several years away.

Jack
Guest

Because JetBlue can come in with a 321LR cheaper to run and less seats so easier to fill up and a cheaper price! Push to shove people fly airlines that are cheaper and JetBlue know for a great product and customer service

Lauren
Guest
Norwegian and WOW have made an impact in the marker offering their cheap fares. JetBlue has a superior product and could keep costs cheaper than their legacy competetors while still being competitive with the barebones WOW and Norwegian. Kinda a poor example, but I did some reaserch a bit back for a prospective trip to London from Boston. WOW was $440 via Keflavik into Gatwick, Norwegian was nonstop to Gatwick for something like $550. This of course doesn’t include baggage charges; $62.50 each way. (interestingly also in the mix at $500 wasTAP via Lisbon into Heathrow, with free bags as… Read more »
Ted
Guest

Terminal C and terminal E are connected inside security as of a couple week ago.

Alex McWhirter
Guest

Reminds me of what PeopleExpress used to do.

Zack Rules
Guest

Doesn’t the AA-BA joint venture have to make a few Heathrow slots available for new entrants? I thought that is how Delta got its BOS-LHR slot. http://www.acl-uk.org/latestNews.aspx?id=183
Perhaps B6 will try to get a few of those slots although I imagine the minute they apply, Delta will ask for the same ones.

Mike Power
Member

This is exactly why I am surprised that VS still runs BOS-LHR and hasn’t let DL run two flights on the route. The agreement calls for BA/AA to lease two slots at competitive times and terms to a new entrant. DL originally got both but then gave back the second slot when they couldn’t fill two flights. But now they effectively have two flights. Why let someone else come and grab it?

George
Guest

B6 is also considering widebodies for European ops, as per their official statement:

http://www.ch-aviation.com/portal/news/49536-jetblue-also-considering-widebodies-for-transatlantic-ops

Tim Dunn
Member
It is precisely because B6 is furthest along in the process of becoming the first large US LCC to fly to Europe in the current era that Delta is committed to growing Boston. B6 as a transatlantic carrier threatens all 3 US global carriers and their east coast/NE US hubs. What they start at BOS could lead to further growth in other B6 cities. DL has 321s in service and on order which they could easily convert to NEO LRs. DL also has widebodies on order. DL pilots say the company is pushing narrowbody transatlantic ops in the current negotiations.… Read more »
A
Guest

I’ve flown across the pond on a 757 (narrow body) and on 767 & A330 aircraft (room to move about the cabin body). There isn’t even a discussion to be had about which is a more comfortable experience when riding in Y. When I have a local non-stop option into LHR or CDG on widebody aircraft B6 would have to offer serious bargain basement fares to make me connect in BOS and take the long leg in an A321. Just my 2 cents.

Oliver
Guest
There isn’t even a discussion to be had? Having flown across the pond in E+ on a UA 757 a couple of times and countless times on virtually all wide bodies, there is really no major difference. Leg room matters more than number of aisle to me since I am going to be spending 95+% of the time in the seat. And you do realize that you share those two aisles on the A330 or 767 with more people? I could easily see picking a B6 A312 with decent leg room over a competitor with 30-31″ pitch on a wide… Read more »
A
Guest

Perception vs. reality, maybe. That said I’ve seen a whole lot of people pass through the galley on a widebody to get to the other aisle to access a lav during cart service. Not sure what the int’l 321 config will be but needless to say there will be no alternate route.

I can sit still for 4-5 hours but beyond that I’ve got to get up after sitting in a Y seat that long. When I book long flights I do pay attention to the equipment.

BigDaddyJ
Member

The problem with this argument is, those 767s are getting replaced over time, and the new replacements have tinier seats. Both 777s and 787s have really dense configurations today for over-the-pond, and the Y product is measurably worse than any existing widebody *or* narrowbody.

WOW has made it clear that flying A321s across the Atlantic can work—there are customers who will travel within the low-cost structure, and those seats will be more comfortable than at least some of the widebodies traveling the same route.

(AC’s hyper-dense 777-300ERs are by far the worst in this category; just read some of their reviews.)

Lauren
Guest

I’m dreading the day UA goes 10 abreast on the 777, currently I believe it’s just for their SR Hawaii models, but I can see it expanding to the 77Ws that they are expecting, and likely will go the way of AA when they got their 10 abreast 77Ws and start converting the 772s all to 10 abreast as well.
Let’s hope Delta doesn’t pull this as well. 16.5h ATL-JNB on the 77L at 10 abreast would be management asking to have their eyes clawed out by crushed coach passengers.

Oliver
Guest

Yes, I pay attention to equipment, too, when I book a (any, really) flight. Apparently we have different requirements and preferences.

Given the large number of existing narrow body flights across the pond today, it seems there are enough passengers that age with me, so I don’t see that B6 would face any problems there.

Give me a “wide” A321 seat with decent leg room any time over a narrow 787 seat with crappy leg room.

Andrew
Guest

@A – I think you forget how short flights to Europe are from Boston. Looking at Flight Aware, the airtime of the three most recent flights from BOS-LHR clocked in at 5:45, 5:34, and 5:41.

Conversely, the three most recent flights from BOS-SFO clocked in at 5:36, 5:44, 5:48.

BOS-SFO is always a narrowbody, and no one thinks twice about it. Why would BOS-LHR, with the same exact time in the air, need to be different?

Tim Dunn
Member

To be fair you compared eastbound to Europe with westbound to California. London and Paris to Boston are around 8 hours

Matt
Guest

There are also challenges for expansion at BOS just in terms of Airport infrastructure. Logan needs a lot of help if it is going to be a hub of any kind – particularly of the international variety.

Tim Dunn
Member
And it is also possible that part of Delta’s strategy is to force major upgrades and building projects at Logan which could disproportionately impact B6 similar to what is playing out in Seattle with Alaska. Higher legacy carrier fares support expensive airport projects better than LCC fares. Other LCCs from both sides of the Atlantic will also increase their presence at BOS. Delta has a terminal that can accommodate an FIS but Massport hasn’t been willing to agree to multiple split FISs. Either BOS has to gain a whole lot more international processing capability or international growth will be choked… Read more »
Kilroy
Guest
Given that a fair chunk of B6’s flights from BOS run into FL and the Caribbean, would connecting in BOS really be that worthwhile for those going to/from Europe? Have to imagine that many/most of those would be better served by existing nonstops, or by connecting at, say, MIA, LHR, or CDG. Also, I agree with Tim Dunn about B6’s hole in the middle of the country. They fly to very few places in the domestic US that are not within a few hours’ drive from a coast. If/when they really want to drive feed to/from BOS, they could start… Read more »
mikebeau
Member

Great points. I wonder if B6 could find TATL success by offering service to markets with few or no transatlantic non-stops (Birmingham, Liverpool, Lyon, Hamburg, …). These could become source markets to connect into the FL/Caribbean leisure routes and give these markets one-stop access to mid-size US cities and/or alternatives to LHR/CDG/FRA hubs/backtracks. Of course, UA already serves the most viable ones with 757s via EWR, so there goes my argument!

Lauren
Guest
Could be an interesting competition to Thomas Cook and Thompson for the more aware yet budget minded passengers. If IFE is still free it could save families heading on holiday the trouble of the young’uns wanting their parents’ credit card to buy a movie to watch, for example. Would create the issue of having to connect with small children in BOS, which, depending on the terminal, can be rather user friendly or extremely not so (but has to be better than ORD,) but I think C is okay to do so. Once again this could be a cramped Thompson 787… Read more »
cblock2
Member
Well, at the risk of being cynical it’s called “flyover country” for a reason. There are a few cities in the “hole” B6 could open up – OKC, San Antonio, perhaps Minneapolis? St. Louis if it ever stops being a total economic basketcase. But not that many, and in most of those Southwest is very deeply entrenched. Another reason JetBlue may be reconsidering Europe is Aer Lingus’ purchase by IAG. Right now IAG seems content to let Aer Lingus do its own thing, but that could change. To add to Mike’s point, I thin there are some smaller UK and… Read more »
Kilroy
Guest
It’s interesting to compare second tier cities in the in the Midwest with second tier cities in the Northeast. B6 is very focused on the Northeast and on leisure/sun destinations, I totally get that. However, it serves 5 NY-state cities outside of the NYC metro (Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, Newburgh), as well as other mid-size/small cities like Portland, ME, Richmond, Worcester, MA, yet only a handful of cities between the Rockies and the Applaichan Mountains that aren’t on the Gulf Coast. Maybe there really is too much competition from other carriers in those airports, but I’m surprised that B6 doesn’t… Read more »
Adrian
Guest

You are completely right about International-International connections in the US being a pain. You still have to go through US Immigration and Customs, collect your bags, and possibly change terminals (even though you’re only going to be in the US for a few hours). With most other international flights not via the US, you can transfer international-international airside, and not even think about going through Immigration or Customs.

Jason
Guest

If JetBlue opened up 20 UK/EU destinations from BOS there are quite a few “fly over cities” that would become very attractive for B6 due to TATL demand including my home airport CVG which has no Southwest presence. The problem then becomes aircraft availability. If B6 is going to open up 20 points in Europe I don’t see how they’ll be expanding to new home markets anytime soon unless they fall back in love with their E-190s or give Bombadier a call.

Tim Dunn
Member
‘flyover country’ is precisely where there are many cities that don’t have nonstop service to Europe while there aren’t many metros that B6 serves that lack transatlantic service. and it still comes down to Delta and other carriers do serve many of those markets in flyover country; every extra connecting passenger that a competitor can connect to an international flight is an advantage in the bottom line finances for the flight. Part of the reason that Delta has higher average segment revenues than AA on most TATL markets they both serve from JFK is because DL can connect to more… Read more »
Maarten Albarda
Member
I would welcome the BOS – EU connection, and I think B6 is looking beyond LHR or the UK in general. Rumor has it a deal with AMS has been made or is close to be signed. That would serve me well, as I could use some competition from CLT to EU. I fly narrow-bodies to EU all the time (AA, DL to BRU, AMS) and it really makes no difference. If I can get on a B6 flight connecting through BOS I may jettison my current plans of flying domestic to JFK and then hopping on a NLH flight… Read more »
David SF eastbay
Member

That would be a big undertaking to start a major jump into Europe, where you wouldn’t think there would be a lot of money to be made with so many airlines flying the Atlantic.

jaybru
Member
Do people decide to make a Y (that’s Y, not C or F) transatlantic carrier choice on some basis differently than they do when they fly Y transcon, or even ORD-LAX/SFO? Like, if a Y passenger regularly flies UA transcon or the ORD-LAX/SFO routes, is there really a significant percentage of those people who then fly internationally on a UA competitor or a non-UA-alliance carrier? It just seems to me that if you hook ’em domestically, you’ve got a good chance you’ll get them internationally. Maybe not. But, wasn’t this always the big Pan Am problem–international fine, but if you… Read more »
matt weber
Member
Call me a sceptic if you want, but I don’t think the A321NEO LR is going to be as useful as some seem to think. My experience is you generally have a choice, full load, or full fuel tanks. The 757 was the only aircraft I am aware of that could almost have both. (In some 777-200ER’s filling the tanks would actually take you over MGTOW before the 1st passenger was carried). In addition passenger counts are often based upon unrealistic assumption. I don’t know any International Business class that is 36 inch seat pitch (but that is the assumption).The… Read more »
Adam H
Guest
The next 5 years are going to be interesting for BOS. There’s going to be a lot of new Transatlantic markets served by either B6 or DY/D8 (NAI). I think Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic (under DL orders) are entrenching into MAN to keep either airline out. The next 3 months will set the stage and it all has to do with the Norwegian Air International dispute. If DOT kills NAI application – Kjos will unleash more Transatlantic widebodies on BOS – CDG/BCN/ARN/FCO and the rest of the USA with the other DY Euro-bases. British Isles will be open to… Read more »
Tim Dunn
Member
very good points, Adam NAI is a threat because they operate high density widebodies which can dramatically lower the CASM and serve the entire US to Europe market. narrowbodies will present some threat but nowhere near as much as widebodies. Also, you are correct that B6′ strategy of codesharing with foreign carriers is at conflict with its own service to the same airports for strategic and cost reasons. B6 will have to use its own domestic flights as feed for its international flights which will significantly affect the revenue it gets per seat. if B6 has to rely on a… Read more »
Goytá
Member
It all seems fine, but if JetBlue starts flying to Europe, Ryanair and EasyJet would probably be tempted to cross the pond as well. They both have toyed with the idea, but so far have decided not to do that. It would be a problem particularly for Ryanair, which today benefits from a totally standardized fleet of all 737-800s, which would be unsuitable for those routes. Rumor has it that Airbus refuses to sell to Ryanair because of the aggressive hagging they try to do with aircraft prices and maintenance packages, and the headaches they reputedly cause to Boeing with… Read more »
Goytá
Member
Oh, and let’s not forget Wizz Air, which serves mostly Eastern Europe (Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, etc.), a market that is currently underserved in terms of trans-Atlantic flights – and, like EasyJet, is also an Airbus user already. But if Ryanair decides to do it after all, considering the exotic city pairs it connects today (Vilnius-Bergamo anyone?) – improbably profitably – and its penchant for using faraway secondary airports, it would be interesting to imagine some of its trans-Atlantic city pairs (LOL!): – Charleroi-Stewart, NY (advertised as “Brussels-New York,” of course…) – Nyköping-Providence (“Stockholm-Boston”) – Hahn-Niagara Falls (“Frankfurt-Buffalo”) – Beauvais-Rockford, IL… Read more »
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