American low-cost airline JetBlue launches London service using long-range Airbus A321 planes despite the pandemic – and starts a price war

  • JetBlue pressed ahead with the start of its daily John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport to Heathrow service
  • It is counting on its new Airbus A321LR jets, a longer-range variant of the A321neo, to underpin profits 
  • Tickets start from £329 return ($599 on the U.S side) for one of 117 Core (economy main cabin) seats 

JetBlue started transatlantic flights between New York and London on Wednesday, planning to grab market share with low fares and drive recovery on what is usually one of the world’s busiest and most lucrative international routes.

Transatlantic travel remains partially shut as the United States is still not allowing most travellers from Britain into the country because of the coronavirus pandemic. Anyone who does enter, including U.S citizens, must present a negative Covid-19 test.

The UK only opened to fully vaccinated U.S travellers earlier in August.

JetBlue started transatlantic flights between New York and London on Wednesday. Pictured are passengers on the first service as it waits to depart JFK

Passengers wearing protective masks hold American and British flags on JetBlue’s first flight to London

But New York-based JetBlue pressed ahead with the start of its daily John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport to Heathrow service, counting on its new Airbus A321LR jets, a longer-range variant of the A321neo, to underpin profits.

JetBlue believes that by using the smaller, fuel-efficient Airbus jets it can undercut other airlines on price – and UK travellers get a special introductory rate.

Tickets start from £329 return ($599 on the U.S side) for one of 117 Core (economy main cabin) seats and £999 ($1,979) return for one of 24 individual business-class ‘Mint’ suites.

The aircraft will also feature two first-class ‘Mint Studio’ seats – for an extra $299 (£211) each way – that the airline claims have ‘the largest lie-flat bed of any U.S carrier’.

One of the two first-class A321 ‘Mint Studio’ seats, pictured, which JetBlue says have the biggest lie-flat bed of any U.S carrier

The business-class seat offered on the JetBlue A321LR transatlantic service. It features tilting 17-inch Thales Avant screens, wireless charging capabilities, an integrated phone ledge ‘for multitasking’, ‘easy-to-reach in-seat power’, as well as laptop, shoe and handbag stowage

A flight attendant on the inaugural flight is pictured here helping passengers in the business-class section 

The Mint Studio seat, which New York-based JetBlue says is the ‘pinnacle of space and privacy’, feature 22-inch Thales ‘Avant’ tilting seatback screens, an extra side table and a guest seat that can accommodate an additional passenger during flight at cruising altitude.

The ‘regular’ Mint suites, meanwhile, feature tilting 17-inch Thales Avant screens, wireless charging capabilities, an integrated phone ledge ‘for multitasking’, ‘easy-to-reach in-seat power’, as well as laptop, shoe and handbag stowage.

The designs for the ‘Mint’ suites and ‘Mint Studio’ seats were conceptualised by London-based Acumen Design Associates and developed in partnership with another UK studio, Aim Altitude.

Speaking at JFK before the first departure, JetBlue Chief Executive Robin Hayes said the launch was already driving a price war, with fares between New York and London falling since its flights went on sale.

‘JetBlue is responsible for that,’ he said.

At the JetBlue launch event at JFK, a section of the terminal was given a British-themed makeover

Passengers at JFK show their passports before boarding the first ever transatlantic JetBlue flight

Before the pandemic, New York-London was among the most lucrative and highly competitive airline routes on the globe. Pictured is the type of aircraft JetBlue is now flying to London – an Airbus A321

UK-based airlines British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are struggling in the pandemic because, unlike U.S rivals American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, they do not have a large, buoyant domestic market to fall back on.

JetBlue, which plans to add flights to London’s Gatwick in late September and between Boston and London next year, was more affected than other U.S airlines during the pandemic because its hub airports were heavily affected by lockdowns.

As domestic Covid-19 restrictions ease, it has seen an increase in revenues. It hopes its London service will provide a further boost and that it will fare better than other low-cost carriers that have tried and failed to conquer the transatlantic in the past. 

Speaking at JFK before the first departure, JetBlue Chief Executive Robin Hayes (pictured) said the launch was already driving a price war

JetBlue, which plans to add flights to London’s Gatwick in late September and between Boston and London next year, was more affected than other U.S airlines during the pandemic because its hub airports were heavily affected by lockdowns

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