JetBlue Airways Corp is in discussions with Airbus SE about the European planemaker’s plans for a longer-range version of its A321neo family as it prepares to jump into the transatlantic market, Chief Executive Robin Hayes said on Monday.
The sixth-largest U.S. carrier has 85 A321neo aircraft on order, of which it has already decided to convert 13 into a longer-range version called the A321LR for its planned launch of daily flights from New York and Boston to London in 2021.
But if the low-cost carrier decides to fly to other European cities such as Brussels or Amsterdam, it will need a plane with more stamina. It is studying the A321XLR, which Airbus has been promoting ahead of a formal product announcement in June.
JetBlue is betting on its Mint Business Class product for narrowbody aircraft to succeed in the highly competitive premium transatlantic market. As of now, its U.S. customers have to fly to London on rival carriers where business class seats can cost as much as $12,000.
A handful of Europe-based budget carriers have tried to penetrate the transatlantic market in recent years, but only cash-strapped Norwegian Air is still standing. JetBlue is known for having a loyal customer base, but entering the hypercompetitive trans-Atlantic market is still likely to be a challenge. JetBlue is facing a mountain of competition with several legacy carriers who have flown the routes for years. Delta Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines in America. European based carriers British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian Airlines fly between London and two US cities.
JetBlue is known for offering perks to passengers, including free snacks, live television at every seat and free in-flight internet. It didn’t say if it would offer different services for these long flights but said it will redesign its first class cabins. Hayes said he expects to work on code-share agreements with partners that have a strong presence in Europe, where the airline wants to eventually build up its brand. A number of JetBlue’s 50 airline partners have already reached out, he said.
Aviation Travel Writer: The Flight Times Blog