JetBlue’s Transatlantic A321LR Fleet To Be Delivered in 2021

 - April 24, 2019, 11:33 AM
A new JetBlue A320ceo departs Airbus's Mobile, Alabama plant last September (using a sustainable jet fuel blend). JetBlue has designated 13 of the A321neos it has on order as A321LRs to serve transatlantic routes.

JetBlue Airways has confirmed it is due to take delivery in 2021 of all 13 of the Airbus A321LRs it will use for its first transatlantic scheduled services and expresses confidence that by the time it begins receiving the aircraft JetBlue will have obtained the ETOPS certification it will require to operate them on nonstop transatlantic flights.

The New York-based airline announced April 10 that it would launch transatlantic scheduled service for the first time in 2021 using 13 A321LRs it had newly specified from within its existing order with Airbus for 85 A321neos. The routes will link its “focus city” hubs at Boston Logan International Airport and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport with one or more as-yet unspecified airports serving London.

Responding to financial analysts’ questions during JetBlue’s 2019 first-quarter earnings conference call on April 23, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said that in preparing for transatlantic service, “the item on the critical path before [the 13 A321LRs are delivered is achieving] the ability to fly ETOPS [routes]," by obtaining ETOPS certification.

Hayes said JetBlue already has a team of executives working on its ETOPS certification planning and that all the managers involved have had previous experience working on ETOPS certification programs at other carriers. “We’re very confident we will be able to hit those [2021] timelines,” he said. In parallel, work on “the [in-flight service] product, schedule, and working through all the different London airports we’re looking at is all in hand,” Hayes added.

During the conference call, Hayes described London as “the biggest metropolitan area we don’t serve” from JetBlue’s main hubs and said the decision to launch service to the UK capital was “really about making our focus cities in Boston and New York more relevant.” He characterized the move into transatlantic service as “developing mature focus city markets” rather than just adding more destinations to JetBlue’s network, and added, “The investment community should be pleased about that.”

JetBlue executives did not discuss during the call the planned service frequency for serving London from Boston and New York. However, its order for 13 aircraft suggests the airline is contemplating up to six-times-daily service on each route. In addition, JetBlue may hold the 13th aircraft as a spare to cover for unexpected delays or cancellations affecting its transatlantic flights. The airline plans to offer a business class-intensive service on two routes each with sector block times of eight to nine hours in each direction at the A321LR’s relatively slow cruise speeds.

JetBlue confirmed it will take delivery of its first A321neo in the current quarter and now expects this year to receive at least six A321neos, all of them configured with “HD” economy class-dominated cabins rather than its “Mint” cabins, which are primarily configured with business-class and premium economy seating for serving U.S. transcontinental routes. The carrier originally was due to receive 13 A321neos this year but cited delivery delays affecting the A320neo-family program as the reason for its amended 2019 delivery assumptions. However, the carrier still expects to receive by the end of 2024 all 85 A321neos and A321LRs it has on order.

Steve Priest, JetBlue’s chief financial officer, confirmed during the call that the airline will receive the first of the 60 Airbus A220s it has ordered at “the back end of 2020” and will take delivery of only one A220 that year. JetBlue expects to receive six A220s in 2021, eight in 2022, 19 in 2023, 22 in 2024, and four in 2025.