“We need to run a tight ship, down to the very last detail. The failings of some airlines we have observed are due to models that were not closely controlled”
MARC ROCHET, CEO OF FRENCH BEE
On paper, JetBlue ticks all the right boxes to succeed where others have failed. Most importantly, JetBlue is a big airline, bigger than easyJet for example. Last year it carried more than 40 million passengers on its fleet of 240 planes. Generating revenues of over $7.5 million a year, the airline is posting solid results. Unlike all the other low-cost players on today’s transatlantic route, JetBlue could feed its long-haul flights with connecting passengers thanks to the scale of its network of destinations in New York and Boston. At JFK, JetBlue is one of Delta’s main operators. Neither will the airline have a problem making itself known considering its strong reputation for service quality. The type of aircraft JetBlue intends to use for these transatlantic flights is also a plus. It will convert some of its A321neo orders into A321LRs, the long-haul version of this medium-haul aircraft. Cheaper than wide-body aircraft, these planes are also easier to fill since they have a lower capacity (220 passengers). This aircraft, which recently entered into service, together with its big brother, the A321XLR (currently being developed by Airbus) and the future New Midsize Aircraft designed by Boeing, are perhaps the key factor in the successful take-off of low-cost long haul. The A321 LR and A321 XLR in particular are the dream ticket for airlines. The A321 LR, a recent addition to their fleets, offers ranges of 7 to 8 hours, while the A321 XLR, whose debut will probably be in 2023, could cover 10-hour flights. “The A321 XLR is a monster with a remarkable range”, claimed Level’s CEO, Vincent Hodder, last month. This flight time is not unusual for wide-body aircraft like the A350 ULR, which are capable of close to 20-hour flights, and particularly for a plane designed for medium-haul flights like the A321, especially if the same seat capacity is maintained (200 plus). JetBlue has just announced the launch of transatlantic flights in early 2021 between London and its operating hubs in New York and Boston. He also forecasts high growth potential for the shortest long-haul flights, between 5 and 7 hours. “While the arrival of aircraft like the A321 (X)LR is set to revolutionise the short, long-haul segment, we see no drastic changes in the ultra-long-haul model. Addressing this as-yet untapped demand (50% extra growth for an equivalent 20% increase in global traffic) will require the delivery of 2,200 additional aircraft over the next 20 years”, explains Oddo BHF in a communication. Alongside transatlantic flights, there is also potential for routes between North and South America, and between Europe and Africa. Above all, these smaller planes are easier to fill than wide-body carriers, which means that airlines can offer a daily service on certain routes. This would help to attract more business customers, making them less dependent on passengers who stop travelling when prices exceed a certain level, when there is a spike in oil prices for example.