JetBlue still plans to launch London flights, but slashes September schedule as the US-UK corridor remains closed

Jul 28, 2021

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The United Kingdom may be off-limits to most American travellers, but that isn’t stopping a U.S. airline from starting its long-awaited service to the British Isles.

JetBlue still plans to launch its inaugural transatlantic flight to London in August, despite the fact that the U.K. border remains largely closed to Americans regardless of vaccination status, while the U.S. border remains closed to Brits.

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The proclamation came on Tuesday during the airline’s second-quarter earnings call with investors.

“We will continue with our first flight on 11 August,” CEO Robin Hayes said. “We will fly our schedule every day per our plan, initially. There are a lot of training events that go with this type of flying that we need to get through, so we will do that.”

Hayes sounded almost incredulous over the fact that a U.S.-U.K. travel corridor, which was expected to be announced earlier this summer, was never opened. Both the U.S. and U.K. have had relatively high rates of vaccination compared with other parts of the world thus far.

“We’ve all been very frustrated that the corridor hasn’t opened,” he said. “There’s no reason for (not) opening it, it’s not data-driven, because there are many other countries where there are lower vaccination rates that are open.”

JetBlue is scheduled to begin service from New York’s JFK Airport to London Heathrow (LHR) on 11 August and from JFK to London Gatwick (LGW) on 29 September. The airline was able to secure landing slots at notoriously slot-constrained Heathrow thanks to a drop in air traffic during the pandemic, but it is not clear whether it can keep them long-term. JetBlue also plans to launch service to London from Boston Logan (BOS) next year.

In the meantime, Hayes said that the airline would reduce its schedule to London in September — barring a corridor opening — and would adjust the schedule as needed on a month-by-month basis through the fall.

JetBlue appeared to load those changes into the schedule Tuesday afternoon, with the daily service between JFK and Heathrow reduced to four weekly flights. The London-bound flight was scheduled to operate every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday in September, while the return was set to fly on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. At press time, the October schedule remained unchanged with daily service. JetBlue did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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“We’ll continue to stay flexible, and we’ll match the capacity to the demand,” Hayes said during the call.

Still, Hayes said, any recovery in demand for the route will likely come quickly once borders are reopened.

“Once a path to the border reopening is clear, we expect demand to bounce back quickly, just as it has in the rest of our network.”

JetBlue reported a modest profit with revenue of $1.4 billion, beating Wall Street’s expectations thanks to a strong recovery of leisure travel demand throughout the quarter.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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