JetBlue’s Recent Network Changes Show Promise


Once the JetBlue and Spirit merger died, the two airlines took different paths. Spirit has been pretty steady, not releasing many details on what it is going to do the fix the airline. JetBlue, on the other hand, blue up its management team and has started to make some fairly hefty network changes as well. I continue to like what I’m seeing.

There are really three parts to this most recent shift as I see it.

  • Put Mint to Better Use
  • Remember San Juan is a Focus City
  • Return LaGuardia to Where It Was

Let’s tackle these one at a time.

Put Mint to Better Use

At the end of the first quarter, JetBlue had 287 airplanes. Of those, 52 had Mint business class onboard. And of those, 35 were A321s and 8 were A321neos, both in a configuration of 16 Mint seats and 143 in coach. There are the additional 9 A321LRs with Mint that are meant for Europe service. Those have 24 Mint seats and a mere 114 in the back.

These airplanes require those Mint seats to be full with decent fares. There just aren’t enough coach seats to make a living otherwise. But in winter in particular, it has proven very hard to fill those seats. Look at this monthly load factor for European departures:

JetBlue European Departure Load Factor by Month

Data via Cirium

These aren’t just premium seat load factors, but consider how empty some of these airplanes are and it’s hard to imagine them making enough money to be profitable. So, JetBlue is going to pull some of these airplanes out of Europe. Gatwick won’t operate, at least not during winter. And Paris will lose a frequency. This means the normal Mint A321neos that were doing Europe last winter are free to do other things.

On top of this, JetBlue has made the wise decision to cut back the LA focus city. It will end both LA – Miami and Newark flights, both of which were operated by Mint aircraft.

With all this free aircraft time, where should JetBlue put the airplanes? Here’s the plan:

  • Phoenix – Boston and JFK 2x daily on Mint (doubled from 1x daily on non-Mint airplanes)
  • Phoenix – Fort Lauderdale 1x daily on Mint (new route)
  • Las Vegas – Fort Lauderdale 2x daily upgraded to Mint
  • New York/JFK – Vancouver 1x daily upgraded to Mint
  • New York/JFK – San Juan 1x daily upgraded to Mint

I’m not so sure how I feel about Vancouver, but the rest of these are good winter seasonal markets that are long enough to capture premium demand. At the very least, JetBlue should be able to put a lot more butts in seats on these airplanes compared to what Europe is able generate. And when summer comes around, Europe will be waiting.

That San Juan flight…

Remember San Juan is a Focus City

San Juan is a focus city for JetBlue. Is that a surprise? It’s hard to remember it, actually, because it has been a stagnant market for the airline.

When JetBlue went in to take over what American abandoned, it was a big move. But since then, Spirit and Frontier have both made strides in growing that market. Frontier in particular is even finding success in intra-Caribbean flying from there. It’s been a boon, and JetBlue has watched it happen.

Just look at what we put together for Cranky Network Weekly a couple weeks ago on intra-Caribbean:

Since that time, Frontier added Port-of-Spain to the route map. Even Caribbean Airlines filed San Juan – Barbados. Everyone was taking notice except for the largest incumbent in San Juan.

Now, JetBlue is waking up. In addition to putting a Mint flight into San Juan from JFK, it will add this new flying:

  • Cancún 3x weekly
  • Providence 1x daily
  • Medellín 4x weekly
  • St. Croix 1x daily
  • Santiago (DR) 1x daily
  • White Plains 1x daily

It’s a bonanza of new service, including smart links to the Northeast where JetBlue has a good presence along with that intra-Caribbean flying that suddenly seems in vogue.

Remember, JetBlue isn’t growing in the near-term, so where area all these airplanes coming from? Certainly a big part of it is the pulldown at New York/LaGuardia.

Return LaGuardia to Where It Was

JetBlue had been building up LaGuardia as part of its Northeast Alliance (NEA) with American. American didn’t have a good use for those slots, so it gave them over to JetBlue to operate with bigger aircraft. Once the courts shot down the NEA, the unraveling began.

JetBlue had nearly 50 daily flights in March 2023 which was the absolute peak. Once the IATA summer season ends in late October, this will drop closer to 15 daily.

What’s interesting here is that JetBlue doesn’t seem to have found any great new markets as part of the NEA. With the same number of slots it had pre-pandemic (and pre-NEA), it has gone right back to the same four markets it served then: Boston, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, and West Palm Beach. I guess if that works, don’t bother fixing it.

In general, seeing Mint move in winter to routes where there is more premium leisure to be found is a good thing. Putting more in San Juan is going to be better than LaGuardia as well, especially without the NEA. It’s clear more is coming, but this is a welcome start.

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    34 comments on “JetBlue’s Recent Network Changes Show Promise

    1. This doesn’t show promise at all. JetBlue is simply growing Caribbean service, a market that is saturated, VFR heavy, with low yields except during some peak vacation seasons, with a premium-heavy cabin on a lot of routes to the region. Europe cuts make sense, but frankly, does JetBlue even need to fly there? The TATL network they have looks and feels like a vanity project. They’re not carrying business travelers on any part of their network, meaningfully, so lining up all their eggs in the hope of catching leisure travel. Not smart. Icahn’s exit is a sign JetBlue is clearly worth more in parts than in the whole.

      1. As the govt blocked JetBlue from merging with Spirit, the govt will block B6 from merging parts of itself with the big 4 airlines. The only chance of JetBlue being sold in pieces is if its through a Chapt 7 process.

        1. Chapter 7 is a very likely outcome for JetBlue. The airline is bleeding cash and has no real strategy.

          1. Could the “JetBlue is doomed” faction calm down just a bit? Yes, they have issues, but so do a lot of other airlines, and they’ve gotten rid of the NEA/Spirit distractions (not how they would have liked them to end, but there’s at least a partial blessing in disguise here) and changed management to focus on them.

            As a practical matter, Spirit would go through Ch 11 and into Ch 7 long before JetBlue, and Spirit being gone would ease some of the competitive pressures on B6 (and F9).

      2. The only vanity project is the comments like this of what people have said about jetblue since 2000. Caribbean and sju has been their most profitable sector of their network. But let it die? Geeze the level of commentary here like this takes foolish opinions to another level

      3. Tbf to B6, with the exception of Boston their network naturally makes it just a bit hard to capture too many business travellers.

        I’m not saying they can’t- they absolutely should try to capture as many of them as possible (though a higher OTP, better schedule, better route network through the use of codesharing, lounges, better app/website, beefing up sales, etc).

        TATL at least from BOS is very much necessary to compete with DL.

        re: Icahn he’s done nothing yet and him selling was a myth.

        1. Unless they can get slot waivers for 100% of those slots, which is unlikely, AA has no choice but to either lease them to a competitor or use it themselves.

          New York LaGuardia is a big money loser for American and the extra flights will only make this worse imo, but there’s no way they are giving up valuable assets.

      1. They go back to AA where they will be under utilized when they operate regional jets to small destinations likely to squat on then and reduce losses.

        1. As the FAA works through its ATC staffing issues and LGA already has difficulty managing delays with current traffic, the FAA maybe fine with AA’s excess slots being dormant for awhile longer.

        2. Jason – AA has been putting slots out for use by Spirit and maybe Frontier. They don’t know what to do with them.

    2. I find SJU-CUN to be an unusual routing. It doesn’t seem like an obvious VFR, vacation (do people in PR really holiday in Mexico) or business route. Can someone smarter than me explain the logic on that route?

      1. Any point on earth + Cancun = $$$

        But in all seriousness, it’s an unusual choice since the market is only 50 unstimulated PDEW today with relatively weak fares

    3. Thanks for the analysis Cranky!

      Curious about your thoughts on exiting LAX-MIA and LAX-EWR – I would have thought both are more premium markets than LAS/PHX? And as far as Vancouver goes, they probably expect to capture some of the premium travel that used to flow via Cathay Pacific pre-COVID (there is a large entertainment industry in the area). But like SEA, YVR is cold and dreary for much of the year, so I can see this being tougher outside of spring/summer peaks.

      1. … or it could be used to drive high-end sunseakers in BC. YVR to Caribbean isn’t quite an easy feat, nor many good premium offerings outside of Porter to Air Transat (GULP) and the occasional AC widebody to YYZ or YUL, to then connect to a Rouge-ified Airbus.

      2. AntJFK – The premium opportunities in LAX-MIA/EWR are filled by AA and UA, primary hub carriers. JetBlue is much better off focusing on carrying the premium travelers to its focus cities in FLL/JFK respectively. Since JetBlue’s market is premium leisure, those markets make much more sense.
        The LAS/PHX markets in winter are great markets with huge demand but they have limited to no real premium offerings. It fits more with the leisure strategy to serve those markets, and it may very well work. None of this is a guarantee, but they are markets that seem worth trying considering JetBlue’s stated strategy.

    4. I know when I say something about jetBlue, I’m in the minority of opinions. But it does seem to me that they’ve struggled ever since David Neelman was out. And the problem at this point, is to really fix any of their problems, requires more money than they have. I would agree with the others that ch7 is probably where they are heading. I feel really bad for their employees if that happens. Losing their seniority is a really hard pill to swallow.

      1. Why would you think they would go Chapter 7? They have one of the strongest balance sheets in the industry.

        1. Took me an awfully long amount to find it but here are the the Total Debt To Total Equity Ratios as per WSJ:

          United – 394.03
          Delta – 245.66
          Jetblue – 161.22
          Southwest – 87.49

          Couldn’t find one for American but it’s likely 600-something. I compared a bunch of other stats and figures and the Jetblue balance sheet is pretty damn good. Only one better is Southwest and that company is stagnant and has no potential to grow.

          1. AA has no stockholder equity and actually has a stockholder deficit which is worse than dividing by zero.

            B6 gas a decent balance sheet but they have to stem the losses.

    5. Let’s not forget that one of B6′ first destinations outside of the continental US was to SJU. It was there that B6 asserted its ability to win against AA from JFK which ultimately was expanded to large portions of the Caribbean.
      The real question is why B6 pulled back SJU and I suspect the answer is that Puerto Rico has become a much less profitable place to fly because the economy is shrinking as people move to the US mainland.

      Is B6 really increasing service to PR because it is a good revenue opportunity or because they just can’t fly the number of longhaul domestic and international flights they tried and have not succeeded at? I am sure they will lose less money than they did on other routes but whether they will make more money remains to be seen, esp. using Mint configurations in markets that are heavily leisure.

    6. Ulimately, JetBlue is one of the last regional airlines. In this case, the region is the northeast. Now, if they can make a good living dominating at JFK and BOS (and it has slipped in the latter), this might be how you eke out a living. For years, it was good enough to get by and perhaps it can be again. The focus on MCO, PBI, FLL and SJU are merely natural extensions of being a New Yorkers’ airline. Again, fine if they can manage to rule that market. Not sure I’m seeing it happen, but I wish them luck.

      Barring that, it will take a big merger to get this airline beyond that far corner of the USA. Perhaps a link-up with Alaska? Sure, I see potential issues there, but the route maps of the two are quite complimentary. Not that I see this happening anytime soon, between the current regime in Washington and AS having to digest HA first. Still, I think it will take something like that for JetBlue to have any potential for growth.

    7. Hi Brett!

      I’m curious as to your thoughts on YVR(Vancouver). I have worked that flight a few times, and the crown tends to have some high-income earning to wealthy people on the plane. Also, with all of the TV and movies filmed there, along with the production studios, we tend to get quite a few celebrities on the flight.. Mainly from The CW, or Hallmark Channel lol, along with many NetFlix talent that fly there to shoot films and TV.

      Do you think the premium demand needs to be there? I’m curious about your thoughts on this. By the way, great post!

      1. CoolBlue – I think it could work but it’s definitely the oddest of the new markets. I honestly don’t know that there’s enough traffic on that route to sustain this. Sure, there is entertainment traffic, but that doesn’t mean that’s enough to keep a flight working every day.

        1. There’s also cruise ship traffic in peak summer as most cruises to Alaska depart from there.

          I can definitely imagine B6 selling Mint seats in summer- winter will totally depend on that media traffic IMO. Maybe B6 already has a studio contract lined up?

          1. Seattle actually has the highest cruise embarkations to Alaska. Vancouver has a few more sailings, however the Port of Vancouver cannot support the new mega ships due to Lions Gate bridge clearance restrictions.

    8. JFK-YVR, which keeps switching between an A320 and a A220 now has a Mint equipped A321 on it too.

      B6 does have some ties with the entertainment in Los Angeles as many opt/prefer to fly them to NYC due to their better hard/soft product in Mint and that route does pretty good for them.
      JFK-YVR should succeed for the same reason, though it may take time for word to spread.

      Speaking of Mint B6 have a whopping three subfleets with Mint. THREE. This is supposed to be a niche product for niche routes yet they turned an easy money grab into an easy way to raise their casm. They have another six or so non-Mint subfleets, and I haven’t even mentioned the upcoming A321XLRs yet.

      Meanwhile AA has one narrowbody with lie flats. Maybe take a page from them B6, the airline doesn’t even need LR/XLRs as the regular neos can already do Europe.

    9. B6 is at a turning point. The LLC formula will take you so far. Yet, labor is maturing requiring greater compensation.
      Also, there’s just so much revenue along the East Coast and Caribbean. San Juan is more VFR, not business PAX.
      Mint is great for long distance flights. But something needs to be done for the short hop, skip, & jump flights; it needs to adopt 1st or business class seating. This would bring in premium revenue to the top & bottom line which B6 needs for long term survival. This would have fit well at LAX. It’s too large a market to retreat from.
      As for Europa, B6 cannot rely solely on the North East as a customer base. Needs to get its connections to BOS and JFK straighten out. The current situation is unstable and adverse to building a hub & spoke footprint. Also hurts when looking for Euro partners.

      With Icahn out of the picture for now, Ms Joanna has some breathing room. Lots of chest pieces on the board. Need to pick an offensive move. Constant retreat sends a bad message!!

      1. Just to add to the about chest pieces , maybe B6 would be interested in acquiring or contracting a regional airline to pull in the smaller Midwest markets. These could be the feed for hub & spoke development for BOS & NYC was well as Euro connections. If it worked out, regional service could migrate to FLL as well as San Juan.

        Just saying!!

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