JetBlue’s London Adventure Includes Heathrow… And It Hopes to Stay There

JetBlue, LCY - London/City, LHR - London/Heathrow

As everyone knows from yesterday’s post (or the many, many news reports), JetBlue announced its long-expected service to London last week. There is a lot to unpack here, and fortunately I was able to get on the phone with Scott Laurence, JetBlue’s Head of Revenue and Planning, to try to get a better understanding of just what’s going on. In short, JetBlue has gotten its nose under the Heathrow tent, but it’s not guaranteed that it can stay. Gatwick is more certain, at least, and it will be a part of JetBlue’s London strategy for a long time. Stansted? Well, that remains to be seen.

Let’s start with the basics. Service begins August 11 with this roundtrip from New York to Heathrow:

  • JetBlue 007 Lv New York/JFK 1010p Arr London/Heathrow 1010a (next day)
  • JetBlue 20 Lv London/Heathrow 610p Arr New York/JFK 943p

Then it will be supplemented on September 29 with this rountrip to Gatwick:

  • JetBlue 43 Lv New York/JFK 750p Arr London/Gatwick 755a
  • JetBlue 44 Lv London/Gatwick 12p Arr New York/JFK 333p

Before we get into this further, I just have to congratulate the network team, because that is some strong flight number-game. The 007 on the way out — and it is written with the two zeroes, unlike the rest of the flights — is an obvious nod to James Bond. But the return from Heathrow is the telephone city code for London. The return from Gatwick is the telephone country code for the UK. And possibly my favorite in obscurity is the outbound to Gatwick. It turns out that 43 is the year London was founded. Love it. But I digress.

The Multi-Airport Strategy

JetBlue always knew that it would need to serve multiple airports in London, because the most popular ones are full. So it has devised this multi-airport strategy out of necessity. Here’s a look at London and all its airports.

The yellow dots are all the airports around town with commercial service while the green lines are train routes. Like the tube map, these are not actual track routings, and no, the Southend and Stansted trains do not merge. This is just an illustration so you can get the point.

Heathrow sits 15 to 20 minutes west of Paddington Station which makes it very convenient and easy to get into that part of town. Those who want to head into Canary Wharf or other parts on the other side of town, however, have not had much luck. That changes next year when the Elizabeth Line (also known as Crossrail) opens up. That will give single train service from Heathrow through town to Canary Wharf and Stratford. Heathrow is already the main business airport for long-haul, but this will cement it even further.

City airport is an afterthought from the US. It’s great for short-haul for those around Canary Wharf, but it has a very short runway and can only do niche flying to the US. Southend is also hardly worth discussing today. It’s a tiny little place that can be barely considered to serve London. Maybe someday it’ll matter, but for now, it’s just not there yet.

Luton is the least attractive of what remains. It doesn’t have direct rail service, so it’s a bus to a train. It’s also closer to Heathrow, meaning its catchment has less appeal anyway. The last two — Stansted and Gatwick — are the most interesting outside of Heathrow. Those three will form the pillars of the JetBlue London strategy.

Heathrow is Still Number One

As you can tell by that awful return time from Heathrow, JetBlue had to settle for something that’s far from desirable to get into Heathrow, but it still thinks it’s worth it. The eastbound flight is later than preferred by most Americans, and the westbound is just too late in general. It can’t even connect to anything once it gets back to the US. (Scott confirmed that the only connections they are actively selling are on JetBlue, not American, since JetBlue’s London flights are excluded from the Northeast Alliance.)

As bad as the schedule is, it’s even worse because JetBlue needs two airplanes to fly the route. When the plane gets back to New York, it’s too late to turn it back around. Scott brushed off the suggestion that this is an issue since the startup plan was always to have 3 airplanes fly 2 flights. This will just actually utilize the spare more, though it seems to me it could result in delays if there are mechanical issues on one airplane.

The bigger point, however, is that Scott doesn’t like the time either, and he feels confident that they’ll be able to get an earlier slot time for that return. The ideal slot would be a departure between 1pm and 3pm, but I think he’d be happy to find anything that would enable connections.

Even if that happens, it only gets us a few months down the road. Heathrow is full, but thanks to the pandemic and a slot waiver that allows airlines to not use slots without sacrificing their rights, JetBlue was able to get this slot for the IATA summer season which runs to October 30. Scott thinks the waiver will be extended through the IATA winter into late March, so that would mean the airline would likely be able to keep the slot. But then what?

Scott fully expects JetBlue will be able to stay at Heathrow, but it will have to find a way to stay in. The easy path is to just buy some slots on the open market, but those slots cost tens of millions of dollars. JetBlue has only 138 seats on these small airplanes, and it’ll be hard to make that money back from flying revenue. Still, he did say that they view the slots as appreciating assets. If you think of it as some kind of investment that will not lose value, then it’s easier to justify it to yourself, but you still need to part with a whole lot of cash.

What the airline is really focusing on is to get its hands on some so-called “remedy” slots where the competition authorities require divestment from existing airlines. Of course, it would be a cold day in hell before any US or British carrier turned a slot over to JetBlue there without being forced to do so. Scott thinks there’s a good chance of success since JetBlue is a disruptor that brings low fares, but I also see the other argument that a valuable Heathrow slot shouldn’t be wasted on a 138-seat airplane when it could be used by much larger aircraft heading to the US. JetBlue needs to have this resolved by the end of this year, roughly, so it can start selling tickets into the spring.

Gatwick is the Rock

Regardless of what happens at Heathrow, Scott believes that in the long term, “we’ll be in multiple airports. We think there is a market for Gatwick.” And I would agree that he’s right. There is a market for Gatwick as evidenced by all the airlines that fly there today, but it’s heavily swayed to UK point-of-sale.

On paper, Gatwick looks good. The airport has two fast train services that go to Victoria Station and London Bridge (and beyond up to Farringdon). There is a large population in that area, and easyJet has done well there. Wizz is thrilled to have made its way in there as well. The airport has a long history of low fare transatlantic service, and that brings me to…

… a word from our sponsor.

Does everyone remember Laker? This 1981 schedule from TheAirchive.net shows the airline’s flights from Gatwick to New York, LA, Miami, and Tampa.

Take a walk through TheAirchive.net to find all sorts of historical items, trip reports, memorabilia, and just random avgeekiness. Laker, of course, is long gone, but you’ll also find timetables and route maps from airlines like People Express and Dan-Air that touched down at Gatwick and gave it quite a colorful history.

And now, back to the story.

The problem is that most of that has melted away. Pre-pandemic, British Airways and Virgin had robust operations at Gatwick to serve leisure routes (including Florida and Las Vegas), but it remains to be seen what will survive the pandemic and actually return for those airlines. And of course, all that transatlantic flying by US carriers disappeared as soon as the open skies agreement allowed them to fly to Heathrow.

It can be argued that too much service to the US has disappeared from Gatwick, and JetBlue will try to test this theory. I personally agree. I was supposed to attend a wedding at Balcombe this summer, and Gatwick would have been so much better than Heathrow. Yes, I’m just one person — and the wedding has been postponed again thanks to COVID — but there has to be some demand there. We’re only talking 138 seats per flights, after all.

JetBlue is encouraged by early results. Scott told me that early bookings were “off the charts good” with what, to me, is a surprising point-of-sale split. It was early, but last week when the new service first launched, the breakdown was about 55 percent US and 45 percent UK. That bodes well for Gatwick success, because that is the airport’s base. If JetBlue can get a strong local split and if it can maybe cozy up with easyJet for connections — Scott said “…as schedules come back… we are very open to providing connectivity beyond Gatwick or Heathrow” — and it seems like Gatwick might be a solid option.

And Then There’s Stansted

JetBlue has acquired slots at Stansted as well, but Scott hardly seems as enthused about it today.

…we continue to look at Stansted. There’s value that has been unappreciated. You look at where there’s population growth, where tech is growing…. We have our eye on it, but I don’t think it’ll be in our initial tranche.

So, maybe some day? It’s just not as appealing as the other two, but if JetBlue can’t get what it wants at the other two, then maybe Stansted will look different.

JetBlue will launch Boston service next summer, and Scott says he hopes they can have Heathrow and Gatwick flying from there as well. How realistic that is remains to be seen, considering that Heathrow hasn’t even been secured from JFK for the long run yet.

Of course, we don’t know how well any of this will work at all since this is uncharted territory. A 138-seat A321LR flying to London? This will be a rather fun experiment to watch.

50 comments on “JetBlue’s London Adventure Includes Heathrow… And It Hopes to Stay There

  1. A fun experiment to watch for sure. While B6 has the potential to make its foray across the Atlantic into something profitable, it has some very high hurdles to clear. Prior to the pandemic, JetBlue’s slice of the corporate travel market wasn’t impressive. This is where the utility of the AA partnership comes in, and likely the only real benefit of a weird but probably necessary arrangement between the two carriers and likely the forerunner to a merger much farther down the road. B6’s Premium product on its new London route(s) is impressive, but if and when corporate traffic returns, frequency will be what drives traffic and one or two flights a day just isn’t going to clear that hurdle. Operationally, JetBlue is delay prone, and always has been, notably at JFK. That too is going to be an issue. Kudos to them for trying to disrupt the market, but I suspect that the largest and most lucrative corporate travel budgets will stick with BA/AA, DL/VS, or UA for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with LHR. The LHR slots are not assured as a long term access point. One has to understand exactly how much B6 is willing to spend on that to then truly understand whether this is a viable strategy or a vanity project. Corporate traffic is also likely to take several years to recover. There B6 may have the edge, flying a smaller plane, easier to fill, and quick in and out. I see the US3 and the EU3 (IAG, LH, and AF/KL) likely to respond forcefully to B6 as it tries to venture further into Europe. B6 has a unique product, service that is a cut above, and is relatively well managed, but the writing on the wall is emerging and it screams merger. Plenty of SPACs and other Private Equity vehicles to make that happen. B6’s true value is the sum of its parts.

    1. Merger between AA & B6? I seriously doubt it as AA has B6 at one end & AS on the other ready to pick the meat off the bones that is AA. What will remain is an empty shell of an airline that will either need to rebuild or fade away.

      I see some cranky network awards in B6’s future with those flight number choices such as 007.

      1. Any more mergers will probably require large concessions from the DOJ, making them less attractive for everyone.

        The obsession with airline mergers amongst frequent fliers or even the general public is really bizarre to me since they usually end up hurting consumers (less choice) and it’s a business decision anyway, not personal in any way.

      2. AA as a brand likely isn’t going anywhere. As a company, it may very well look different in the future, and run by a more imaginative, competent, and execution-focused team, be it from JetBlue, Alaska, or someplace else, but I don’t see Alaska Airlines being the brand to carry the AA flag. A slow return of corporate travel and a return to seasonal cash burn, fare wars, hyper-competition, and the airline industry of the 1980s revisited will absolutely trigger mergers and the DoJ will not be able to do much about it, unless it wants to see tens of thousands or maybe more US jobs end in an industry that continues to suck taxpayer money every time there is a crisis impacting it.

    2. Keep in mind that B6 did win over quite a bit of the transcon corporate travel market and Boston corporate market. The partnership with AA really should give them pathway to a larger portion of the corporate market. That has to be a big part of their strategy here. If they are preparing for a corporate travel return to 90% of 2019 level by 2023, then the London flights, additional presence in NYC and increased west coast presence all have to be part of that equation.

      There has been a lot of rumours of JetBlue lounge options in the near future. That would be another step toward capturing higher yielding customers.

      I don’t think they need to have comparable schedules to BA/AA, DL/VS, but having 4 to 5 flights a day on JFK-LON and another 2 flights a day on BOS-LON is needed. I don’t see them adding other TATL markets until they get to that level of capacity to London. An obvious partner in Europe would be U2. Not sure how well they get there.

    3. JetBlue is a very healthy operation, and doesn’t need to merge with anyone. That’s simply not an issue. These new routes will either survive and thrive, or be dropped. Neither will make or break JetBlue.
      As they are using a fairly small plane, and will be offering a competitive price, my money is on them thriving. And the current plans are not disruptive enough to cause panic among the legacy Big Bully Boys. And, lest we forget, the Big Boys have troubles of their own, post pandemic.
      Down the line, if these services do well, then equally I’m sure that the Big Bully Boys will try every dirty trick in the book, as they did with Norwegian, Laker, Virgin* and any potential threat to their extortionate transatlantic prices. Then we’ll see.
      *Interestingly, only Virgin survived. Why? We’ll probably never know, but the fact that they severely limited their flights over the Atlantic, after ambitious plans to take over, and raised their prices to concert-party levels is probably a large clue.

      1. Andrew – Oh I think we know why Virgin survived. Virgin was gifted the right to be the only other British carrier besides BA to be allowed to fly Transatlantic from Heathrow.

  2. I lived in London for about 4 months in 1999 to 2000 as a child and Gatwick although less convenient to where we were living in Richmond southwest of London (and under the Heathrow flight path) was the airport I remember going to more often than Heathrow. This included meeting up with my grandparents who were coming to visit and being US Airways loyalists, which could only fly into Gatwick, under Bermuda II and pre-open skies, along with when we went down to Zimbabwe to visit friends there on the then British Airways non-stop that only ran from Gatwick. The train ride to Gatwick from Richmond was not that bad, just a single train change at Clapham Junction. The fastest way to get to Heathrow was actually taking a train away from London a few stops and transferring to the Feltham Railair bus up to Heathrow. The only time we flew into Heathrow was on Virgin Atlantic going to and from London at the start and end of our months abroad.

    The next time I went back to London on vacation in 2007 it was flying to/from Gatwick from New York again since I was flying Delta Air Lines (and Delta did not have the rights yet to fly into Heathrow). In 1998 on my first trip to London and I remember flying Virgin Atlantic from Newark to Gatwick, and the train ride on the Gatwick Express into Victoria Station.
    I agree with JetBlue’s statement and that there is a market to fly into Gatwick from the U.S. Today I would have no problem flying into Gatwick instead of Heathrow on a future trip to London. I would probably choose based on price. The couple of times I have looked into planning trips to London more recently I was surprised to see that there wasn’t really a choice and pretty much all flights went into Heathrow.

    I feel like there are plenty of Americans who shouln’t mid flying into London-Gatwick, maybe from a college backpacking trip to Europe since has been the London airport for low-cost carriers from Laker Airways (my Dad talks about his first trip to London on them) or when PEOPLEpress flew there in the 1980s, to Norwegian Air Shuttle making a go about it from lots of US cities to London-Gatwick pre-pandemic in the past decade.

  3. Their strategy was always to use all 3 planes. Their pilot bid in February for the London flying included Boston as well. They just canceled that bid last week. If they knew all along they were only going with 2 flights on 3 planes out of JFK a they would have never even had that bid.

    They got caught up with the LHR timings and just couldn’t make 3 flights work with what they had.

    1. Maybe not immediately, but will they rotate the airplanes through other destinations (longer routes with Mint)? The 24 hours on the ground could fit a LAX or SFO round trip, leaving early morning and returning late afternoon.

        1. Is the fleet only going to be 3 airplanes?
          If, say, they rotated the aircraft through a LAX round trip, then that flight can easily be substituted to something else. New airplanes are very expensive things to keep sitting on the ground.

          1. Jason – No, it’s just 3 airplanes that come in this year. Next year more come, and that’s when they’ll keep expanding from Boston to London and elsewhere.

  4. I believe the original plan was 1 flight from JFK and 1 from BOS. In the end, the decreased demand means it’s better to concentrate on the largest TATL market. I’m curious to see if they plan to do additional domestic rotation with the 3rd plane or just leave it on the ground all day. Seems to be a huge waste of resource.

    JFK-LGW is a big market in its own right. DY did really well on it according to all reports and were increasing premium seating on those flights due to corporate demand. With DY/BA/VS gone from that route, JFK-LGW should be a big hit for JetBlue. While LGW is not as well known as LHR to US based ff, it is still quite well known. There has been service on this route for a long time. I think JFK-LHR will be more of a struggle. They are going against much better schedule that have connections on 1 or both ends. The current slots are not terrible for O&D, but is terrible for connections. They will probably have to keep pricing low and product good to be able to make it work just on O&D.

    As for the cost of LHR slots, I think part of the strategy for them was to get LHR slots for cheap from airlines that are struggling for cash and demand for international flights. If B6 can get them for lower cost than pre-pandemic, it makes all the sense in the world to do so. Unfortunately, other US carriers will be thinking the same way.

    I wouldn’t get too caught up on their seat count. It’s a very premium configuration. 24 J and 114 Y can probably generate as much revenue as having well over 200 Y seat or 16J + 150Y. It’s already having an effect on the market. it’s forcing VS to price their J at under 2K R/T. AA/BA have also been forced to drop their R/T to $2640.

  5. LHR gets all of the attention, but it’s so big and busy that it’s an absolute pain in the tail to fly from. Yes, I see the advantages of it for pure business travelers, or if you’re connecting onward to…..well, anywhere. The variety of airlines, flights, and destinations to choose from is mind boggling. But, if you’re just going to London (or most of the South East), LGW is better. It’s easier to get in and out of, it’s cheaper, it’s less crowded, and you’re less likely to spend 5 hours waiting at immigration when you arrive. If you’re going to that area for a visit, it’s well worth the extra 10 minute train ride to use LGW and avoid LHR. And I think B6 can make a nice little base there for passengers who prefer to avoid hassles and who are flying point to point – as most will be.

    1. You mention the extra 10 minute train ride from Gatwick; don’t forget that if you’re staying in The City or Canary Wharf or anywhere near there, you still need to get there from Paddington, so that time advantage is eaten up in tube or taxi transit to your final destination in London. LGW would be much more convenient.

      I’d love to have a nonstop to Gatwick from LAX. All of my wife’s family is in England, and her brother lives in Eastbourne on the southern coast; Gatwick would be perfect for us.

  6. Although I live nearer LHR now I would be tempted to try LGW-JFK. Gatwick was always my home airport having spent my childhood living 10 mins away in Crawley (I hope you make it the Balcombe wedding, it’s a pretty village). With Norwegian seemingly out of the picture it surely opens potential for JetBlue. It is a shame they don’t have a proper premium economy product as I thought Norwegian won a lot of customers with that. If the pricing for Mint remains super competitive, especially in the summer months (sub £1800) then they may capture a good chunk of the premium leisure travel segment. Stanstead might work better with the Boston route with Cambridge close by (Uni plus biotech industry cluster) providing affinity with the Boston area. I really hope they can make a go of it all three as they are definitely my preferred US carrier.

    1. Yes, I came on to say that Boston – Stanstead would work well – very strong links between Cambridge MA and Cambridge UK.
      Their issue in the UK market is definitely going to be onward connections. I’m near LGW, and as much as I’d love to visit NYC again, I have a family looking for the broad leisure access that has evaporated from Gatwick for the moment – Florida, West Coast, Vegas, etc.

  7. I used to fly 4-5 times a year from JFK to London and dreaded either having to be crammed into a cab with up to four other strangers to get from Paddington to our offices on Bishopsgate or the hike to the damned Circle Line to get to Liverpool St. Station during the commute with baggage (I used to go for a week at a time and I’ve never mastered the art of “packing light”.)

    I would have loved the alternative of a 45-minute train ride from STN right to Liverpool St. Station and then just a few minutes’ stroll to the office. Add that to Mint and I’d be a very happy camper, and I suspect a lot of other bankers in the area would be too. (Not necessarily the big dogs who have a billion Avios or Virgin miles, but the lower-tier folks who fly less often.)

    Hope B6 gives it a try.

  8. Maybe I’m being naive, but it might be a good PR move if American or British Airways could “find” a couple of long-term Heathrow slots for jetBlue at a “reasonable” price. If nothing else, British Airways may have a spare slot it could swap with jetBlue for its current New York return trip. JetBlue’s few seats don’t pose an immense disruption to the competitive balance at Heathrow, and finding a way to enhance competition is something regulators tend to like. On a separate note, I still find it rather fascinating (and a bit bothersome) that there are people who are apparently hoping that American Airlines is liquidated and decent people lose their livelihoods. No airline is as perfect as its fans think, and none are as usually quite as bad as its critics suggest.

    1. Desert Ghost…..I went back and carefully re-read yesterday’s “Comments” section. I did not interpret anyone’s remarks as “hoping that American Airlines is liquidated.” I do believe there was once a frequent poster on here who felt that way, but AFAIK, he no longer posts here. So I’m a bit befuddled by what you found “bothersome” in yesterday’s comments. I have previously expressed my desire that ALL the airlines prosper. In general, when the industry is strong, our economy is strong. When our economy is strong, we tend to prosper economically.
      Notwithstanding, the economic reality at American Airlines is both undesirable and unavoidable. To date, they have cleverly devised code-share agreements with JetBlue and Alaska the likes of which have never been seen before, domestically. In particular, the essential gifting of valuable slots at LGA and JFK to JetBlue is unprecedented.
      What’s fascinating is that really only Spirit has publicly objected to this code-share arrangement. The other Big 3 (DL, UA, and WN) have been remarkably quiet, at least in public. I cannot help but wonder what they foresee as the end game here(??).
      And it’s entirely possible that American has used the past year to very carefully plot a business plan that would return them to the top of the industry following a quick, pre-planned, well-executed Chapter 11 filing. Certainly, they have a formidable network that would support financing in such a move. They could clean-up their union Contracts, get their manning issues resolved, have debts forgiven in exchange for a small stake in the “new” American Airlines, and emerge with lower costs than their biggest competitors. Certainly, Mr. Parker thrives in a low-cost environment.
      So, as I posted yesterday, the next 12-24 months will be critical to the future of both AA and the industry. In 5 years, American could be a shell of its former self or it could be number 1 and pulling away. Regardless, all the other industry entrants will be forced to react to what happens at AA, for better or worse.
      Sorry to intrude on today’s excellent topic of JetBlue to London. A great post and many well-written responses. Since the pandemic started, JetBlue has been zigging while almost everyone else has been zagging.

      1. I wasn’t responding only to yesterday’s or today’s comments. It’s just a general sense of “doom and gloom” I see from a number of people on a number of different blogs I read. There almost seems to be a general hatred for American among airline enthusiasts. I’m not sure why. I’ve flown the airline a number of times, and my experience with it has been about the same as every other carrier.

        To the bigger issue: No one knows what’s going to happen in terms of airline revenues at this point. And that’s the key to all of this. Bankruptcy can not solve a revenue problem. It only helps the balance sheet. American recently completed a private refinancing of its non-PSP government debt, which pushed the repayment dates out a couple of years. And the overall interest rate on its debt is in the neighborhood of 4.5%, which isn’t bad given its overall finances. Lenders usually don’t enter into large refinancing packages if they expect a company to file for Chapter 11 (or Chapter 7) in the near future, regardless of the collateral securing the loan. And American isn’t the only airline to leverage its frequent flyer program. The airline has stated both on its last earnings call and on recent analyst conferences that it won’t need any more financing going forward. Of course, that could change if there’s a war somewhere or another major pandemic.

        American came very close to being cash flow positive in March, and its measurement of cash burn includes items others sometimes don’t. Does American have more debt than other carriers? Absolutely. Does that mean it’s automatically going to file for Chapter 11 or be liquidated? Absolutely not. As long as there’s positive cash flow, debt can be refinanced and repaid. We’ll know a lot more in July, when the next quarter’s earnings are reported. My prediction going into this year was that the airlines would be cash flow positive at some point this year. I want to be right about that prediction.

        One last point: If this was 2008, I’m guessing we would have seen numerous airline bankruptcies by now. The fact that there haven’t been any major airline bankruptcies in the U.S. is a tribute to how far the industry has come. Going forward, I want to see all the airlines thrive, not merely survive.

        1. The only reason for lack of bankruptcies is the taxpayer funded bailout and then another bailout and then another..

          1. Bankruptcy is essentially an indirect form of government bailout. The PSP program was basically an unemployment plan administered by the airlines. And I believe all of the other government loans to the airlines have now been paid back to the taxpayers and refinanced through private lenders.

        2. American may or may not be close to Chapter 11, the standard airline approach to short term difficulties, but it is certainly not in a healthy state. It has shed scores of airplanes and many international routes. Their marketing department can dress that upas much as they like, but it doesn’t spell confidence. And then there’s the debt. A smaller, “more focused” [sic] airline will find it ever more difficult to service that debt. The share price, since 2018 tells its own story, and very few analysts are advising a “BUY” despite the bargain price. Indeed, far more are saying “SELL”.

          1. It might be useful to remember that Southwest, Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit, and jetBlue have all done quite well financially without any widebody aircraft in their fleets, and with predominantly domestic operations. Let’s see how things look in five years. I hope every airline is doing well. Is American hampered by its debt? Absolutely. But I still think it’s rather sad that some people almost seem to be celebrating American’s financial woes. Unfortunately, my original point about the possible PR benefit to American from “finding” a Heathrow slot for JetBlue has been lost in the replies to my aside. Sorry about that.

  9. Gatwick also has direct, fast (30 min) train service on the ThamesLink line through London (Blackfriars, City Thameslink, St Pancras, and some towns north of London). This is an often overlooked, but excellent connection.

    1. Scott – Yep, that’s the one that goes to London Bridge and Farringdon on the map. I imagine few people think about that one since it doesn’t have the fancy “Gatwick Express” name… which is pretty silly since the regular Southern service is just as good on that line anyway.

  10. The 007 flight number should be used Westbound not East.

    Per IATA guidelines, odd numbers should be utilized South and Westbound, while evens North and Eastbound.

    Of course, not every airline follows this convention, but be nice if they did.

    Btw – VS007 is LHR to LAX.

    1. A pity there don’t seem to be any nonstops from London to Jamaica. *That* would be the most appropriate flight 007.

  11. CF – some thoughts-&-questions to ponder:

    Q1. Any value to Stansted flights to allow connections into Ryan Air’s vast network?

    Q2. Are LCC/ULCC relationships outside the norm?

    Q3. COVID may have changed Employer:Employee realtionships forever, both At-Home vs In-Office and Video-Meeting vs Face-to-Face Meeting…and if so then LHR may continue to have open slots as airlines will be hurting due to reduced demand from the highest fare customer class. Thoughts?

    Q4. I assume B6 will only every fly from New York and Boston, but isn’t ther a CASM advantage to upsizing to different equipment if successful and LHR gates remain constrained?

    I am a big B6 Fan and wish them well as they make all their flight expansions and optimizations.

    1. SNA_LBG_LAX_Flyer –

      1) Probably not. Ryanair has been very slow to embrace connections, even on its own network where I think it still just offers connections through a handful of airports, and not many connections at that. It could be a powerful feeder in theory, but it would take Ryanair being more serious about it.

      2) There just aren’t a lot of US-style LCCs in the world, so I can’t say whether it’s common or not. There just isn’t much of a sample size.
      Maybe the closest is when Norwegian would feed people from long haul into easyJet short-haul?

      3) I highly doubt it. First, I don’t believe that business travel will remain down. I think it will change. There may be fewer face to face meetings, but you’ll have more remote workers needing to travel to the job, as just one example. Eventually, it will grow back and be strong again, though different. But even if it dropped off, Heathrow will still remain the champion. Remember, they are trying to build a third runway there.
      There is so much demand for so few slots that I can’t imagine there just being open slots for long periods of time. The UK does not like investing in airport infrastructure, so it’s generally constrained.

      4) Sure. If it works well, then JetBlue would benefit from having a larger airplane… except it doesn’t have one. The next step up is a pretty big leap into a widebody, so JetBlue would need a broader strategy for those to work before it invested in that big of a change.

      1. A few years ago (2016), LGW tried to build it own connecting model with GatwickConnects whereby passengers of two airlines could make a single-flight booking instead of two separate flights at a potentially higher cost. Gatwick would then back the bookings with its own guarantee. The plan was to allow PAX from Easyjet, Norwegian and Wow to build connecting itineraries. I thought it was a brilliant idea but since it appears to be removed from Easyjet’s website, I’m guessing it wasn’t that brilliant.

        1. Chris – You’re right, it looks to be gone. I wrote about this back in 2015 when it came out, and I also loved the idea.
          https://crankyflier.com/2015/09/24/the-innovative-gatwickconnects-allows-you-to-connect-between-airlines-that-dont-work-together-without-the-risk/

          But easyJet has its own thing now called Worldwide that uses the same GatwickConnects partner Dohop.
          https://worldwide.easyjet.com/

          Maybe the airport decided it just wasn’t necessary anymore.

    2. Just to add a little to the previous reply,
      1. More value in easyJet’s network from Gatwick, as easyJet has a history or working with other airlines with some through bookings. Not to mention that easyJet would be less of a culture shock to JetBlue’s customers. Ryanair is [cough] somewhat unique [cough]
      2. The rule is that no airline co-operates much with a competitor/potential competitor. Most European LCCs have no transatlantic ambitions, so anything is possible. Theoretically!
      3. Heathrow’s strength (and weakness) is that it is very much a hub airport. This means that airlines cling to slots tenaciously and sell to the highest bidder. Only bankruptcies produce more than a handful. Slot sales are like bitcoin; grossly overpriced for an invisible asset, and often volatile. Historically, they have been a great investment. While Covid may yield a few ‘spare’ slots, don’t forget that many airlines are using smaller aircraft post B747/A380, and so may need to increase frequencies. So still a demand. Bankruptcies are probably the best and only hope!
      4. JetBlue can increase their US airports as well as their European ones, and still remain ‘under the radar’ in terms of a threat to the legacies. If they choose instead to increase their schedules or capacity on a particular route, they will wake the sleeping dragon that is the unofficial, unspoken, concert party of Legacy Airlines, and their wrath is a thing of legend. Plus it would require a culture change within JetBlue. So not in the near future.
      As a Brit, I’ve never flown them, but I’m also a JetBlue fan, and I wish them well. The key to success on the Atlantic Cash Machine is slow, steady growth.

  12. LHR for boutique presence and LGW for growth. And I see B6 hitting MAN, BHX, GLA and EDI if their UK experiment goes well. A321’s are good sized aircraft for the UK (not LON) markets.

    1. BRS too…CO used to run a daily 757 between EWR and BRS. I flew it twice (visiting friends in south Devon) and it was usually 90% plus full with fares slightly higher than flights to LHR or LGW.

  13. Am I the only one who thought Godzilla should be on that map? Probably someplace between Paddington station and the parts of London that people actually need to get to

    Having utilized 4 of those yellow dots, I cannot for the life of me understand why any US based traveler going into London would not prefer LGW, all other things being equal. As a kid and young adult, the US airlines flew much more frequently into Gatwick. I think DL from ATL, US from CLT. Seemed like only the biggest cities and business travel runs actually went into LHR.

    For some reason, the US airlines seemed to consolidate most of their London ops at LHR starting around 2000. At least for AA that made sense for connectivity with BA. But for the others? And now B6 is taking the opposite approach. Interesting.

  14. When I was stationed with the Air Force in England, STN was by far the easiest airport, since the two big bases are north of London between Cambridge and Norwich. The big issue with the London airports for those outside of London is that it is very difficult to cross London to get to an airport opposite from where you are. (The trains all go to London, but not through London) So getting to LGW from north of London is a bear. Continental served STN for a short time, which was very convenient. There is a niche market to serve STN which may be well served by B6’s smaller planes, especially if they can get the GSA contract.

  15. Meanwhile, the reciprocol mileage earning between AA/B6 just came out. Aside from these B6 TATL flying not being included, B6 metal is basically been treated as equivalent to AA metal. This relationship is getting tighter and tighter.

  16. Stansted is an abomination of an airport – Luton is far better. I agree the bus to train is a pain, but it is cheaper to get to Central London than from Heathrow. The Heathrow Express is an utter rip-off, too – so if you choose to take the Tube instead, it actually takes the same time to get to Central London as it does from Luton. But give the huge amount of lost revenue that LHR has suffered (as other airpots have, too), I wonder whether LHR will be giving sweetners for the next few years at least, to build back business.

  17. Couple of notes from a Londoner’s perspective.
    1. SEN is pretty useless at this point. EZY were the biggest operators there and even then it was tiny. Very nice and friendly airport though. Throughout the pandemic they’ve been very active and forward thinking in keeping their staff well trained and runway well utilised.
    2. Don’t count LTN out just yet… They’re about to finish a direct rail shuttle to the nearest train station (converting the bus to rail to rail to rail). As well as that the airport owners have been pretty bullish before the pandemic… We’ll have to see if they continue to do so. EZY are building a new HQ slightly further away from the terminal so I could see a big expansion there in the not too distant future.
    3. JetBlue and EZY I could see cuddling up quite nicely. EZY runs a very big operation out of LGW but they use the wrong terminal to make connections work well. That is unless they can squeeze JetBlue in there as well (probably not hard from a gate perspective but unsure how that would work from a border check perspective). EZY has also closed their STN base permanently so its probably part of the reason JetBlue now doesn’t like the look of Stansted so much. As I said above though I could see the two of them playing very nicely at LTN but it’s definitely not got the “sex appeal” that JetBlue will want out of a London op. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaEjIlZsuTg

    1. That is one of the oddest commercials ever. I love it.

      Thanks for the color. I didn’t know about the new rail connection, but it’s still not going to be as smooth as the other airports. Though eventually, the UK’s unwillingness to add pavement without massive lengthy flights means that every airport will be just fine in the end.

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