• JetBlue Airways CEO Robin Hayes confirmed to Bloomberg on Thursday that the airline’s launch of transatlantic flights will be delayed to late-2021.
  • Flights to London from New York and Boston were announced in April 2019 with new planes ordered to fly the routes.
  • The airline is vowing to lower fares on the route by offering a competitive product at a lower price point, especially in business class.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

London is calling but JetBlue Airways won’t be able to answer just yet.

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes confirmed in an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday that his airline’s long-awaited European debut will be delayed to a late-2021 start, at the earliest.

“Well, it’s going to be later in 2021 than we originally thought,” Hayes told Bloomberg, noting that he believes it will be good timing as pent up demand for travel will encourage more travelers to book tickets.

JetBlue first announced its plans to expand into Europe in April 2019 with aims to bring its unique low-cost, high frills model to the transatlantic market.

The coronavirus pandemic, however, has largely stifled international travel from the US. American passport holders are currently barred from entering most European nations with the US also showing no signs of lifting President Donald Trump's March 11 proclamation that largely restricts European residents from entering the country.

Intercontinental service has long been a staple of JetBlue's route map as the airline serves seven cities in South America but the flights across the Atlantic will be the longest in its route network by nearly 500 miles. To prepare for the new chapter of long-haul flying, JetBlue is investing in new planes, new cabins, and a new in-flight service, all while vowing to bring fares down and democratize transatlantic flying.

The specifics have been a closely guarded secret at JetBlue since the announcement but here's what we know so far.

First stop: London

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Foto: London will be JetBlue's first European destination come 2021. Source: Reuters/Matthew Childs

Only two transatlantic routes have been announced so far from JetBlue's hubs New York and Boston to London. Both are highly lucrative thanks to their appeal to business and leisure travelers, with the New York-London route earning British Airways alone over $1 billion in recent years.

Beyond naming the city, however, JetBlue hasn't announced further details about its newest destination, including which airport will be utilized. And when it comes to London, there's no shortage of airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, Southend, and City, though Heathrow and Gatwick are the favorites for American carriers serving the UK capital.

The competition will be stiff with American, Delta, British Airways, United, Virgin Atlantic, and Norwegian all serving the route before the pandemic. But JetBlue believes more competition and its unique offering will bring fares down on the iconic air link between the two economic powerhouse cities.

Beyond London, no additional cities have been announced but if JetBlue is seeking to shake-up the competition on high-demand routes than cities like Paris, Amsterdam, and Dublin could certainly be next on the list.

A new plane for a new era

JetBlue Airways A321neo

Foto: JetBlue's Airbus A321neo aircraft are opening longer routes than ever thanks to its superior range and fuel efficiency. Source: Lukas Wunderlich / Shutterstock.com

The aircraft used for the transatlantic flights will be the newest in JetBlue's fleet, so new that they haven't even been delivered yet. The Airbus A321neoLR, or long-range, will first shuttle JetBlue passengers between London and the East Coast.

It's an extended range version of the A321neo, which JetBlue began operating in 2019, offering additional fuel efficiency and range compared to the current-generation A321s also employed at the airline. The next-generation aircraft are enabling JetBlue to fly to further destinations while sticking to its narrow-body fleet preference.

The A321neoLR has a maximum range of 4,000 nautical miles, according to Airbus, making it a new favorite among transatlantic airlines like TAP Air Portugal, Air Transat, and Aer Lingus as the aircraft is cheaper to operate than wide-body aircraft. From New York and Boston, JetBlue can theoretically fly the aircraft to every Western and Central European capital non-stop.

In 2023, the A321XLR is scheduled to arrive at the airline, offering an additional 700 nautical miles of range. JetBlue would then have access to the furthest of Europe's largest cities including Moscow, Istanbul, and Kyiv.

In-flight entertainment

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Foto: In-flight entertainment is expected on all JetBlue aircraft with the Airbus A321neoLR and A321XLR being no different. Source: David Slotnick/Business Insider

The staple of any JetBlue flight is complimentary in-flight entertainment and that will likely be no different on the new flights to Europe. JetBlue has been steadily improving its in-flight entertainment in recent years with the arrival of its first Airbus A321 and the latest A321neo now features a revolutionary product compared to the aging system still found on the airline's older planes.

The new offering has touchscreens with device pairing capabilities, on-demand movies and television shows, games, and moving maps. In-flight WiFi will also likely be on offer with JetBlue teaming up with Viasat for international satellite WiFi on its A321neo flights; whether or not the service will be complimentary, however, remains to be seen.

The new jet will likely also feature in-seat power in the form of USB charging ports and 110v AC power outlets.

While JetBlue hasn't said whether the new A321neoLR or A321XLR aircraft will come with a new in-flight entertainment system, the bar is already set very high.

Introducing a new in-flight service

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Foto: Mint business class will be featured on the transatlantic flights but will be upgraded for the new service. Source: EQRoy/Shutterstock

Meal services are typically expected on transatlantic flights thanks to their extended durations, especially as the westbound flight on the New York-London routes can take up to eight hours. No current JetBlue flight, however, offers a meal service or complimentary alcohol in economy - not even its intercontinental services to South America - so whether the airline will introduce a meal service for European flights remains to be seen.

Other low-cost airlines serving the market including Norwegian have offered meals for purchase instead of a complementary offering. It's unlikely that JetBlue will go that route as its announcement states: "Particularly in Europe, JetBlue will raise the bar on what travelers can expect from a low-cost carrier."

JetBlue's Mint business class - found on transcontinental and other high-demand routes - does include a meal service and it's highly-rated. Mint is expected to be offered on the aircraft but not in its current iteration, JetBlue President Joanna Geraghty hinted at the route's announcement in April 2019 and the airline confirmed in its statement.

Mint will provide an "intimate and exclusive travel experience" for passengers at less of a premium than current business class seats on the airline's rivals, the statement said, a tall order that will need to see JetBlue come up with a product competitive with Virgin Atlantic's new A350 Upper Class Suite, Delta's Delta One suite, and British Airways' Club Suite, among others.

Low fares, don't care

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Foto: JetBlue is promising to use its low-cost fare structure to offer low ticket prices and bring down fares on the routes as a whole. Source: Seth Wenig/AP

JetBlue is promising to bring fares down on the routes by offering low fares of its own but hasn't given specifics on just how low it will go. Tickets are not yet on sale for the service and the airline has not yet announced what the introductory offering will be.

Flying to London from New York or Boston, before the pandemic, could range from $300 to well over $1,000 round-trip - depending on the season - but even ultra-low-cost airlines serving the routes in the past and present such as Primera Air, Norwegian, and Level typically did not dip below $200 round-trip.

JetBlue, though a low-cost airline, will still be offering frills like in-flight entertainment and free snacks, adding to the cost of each flight.